Diversity Awareness (& Some Turmoil) in the Cocktail World

March 9th, 2017

It’s been quite a week in the cocktail world.  Our cocktail community is in turmoil. People are upset. Nerves are raw. It all started with a Facebook Live video of Ann Tuennerman, Founder and Executive Director of Tales of the Cocktail (Tales) during Mardi Gras wearing blackface.

Its the Bartender Journey Podcast # 203!  Listen with the audio player on this page, or subscribe on iTunes, Android or Stitcher Radio.

Ann Tuennerman and her Husband Paul Tuennerman, who was co-owner and chief business officer of Tales, were on prepairing to ride on a Float in a Mardi Gras parade. They rode with the Zulu, Social Aid and Pleasure Club, when they went “Live” on Facebook.

The video was pulled off the internet of course, but someone got a screenshot of Ann in the blackface and Ann's comment on the for the video which said “Paul G Tuennerman, interviewing me on Mardi Gras Morning from the Zulu Den. As he said ‘Throw a little Black Face on and you lose all your media skills.’ He did his best as the interviewer”.

Ann said in her first of 2 pubic apologies:

“Earlier this week, I rode in a Mardi Gras parade with the Zulu organization, in which participants, both people of color and of all races, traditionally wear blackface makeup, and shared photos of myself in costume on social media. I now recognize how deeply offensive this is to many, and I am sincerely sorry. It was a naive and inconsiderate action, the consequences of which have made it clear that I have much to learn”.

Many people were deeply offended. Josh Davis, who apparently posted the original screenshot that quickly went viral, wrote the following as a Open Letter:

“This has been one of the most emotionally draining weeks, as a black man who has dealt with the daily trauma of racism throughout my life. At this point I thought I had become desensitized to the hurtful actions of others, but this week proved that the pain I have often displaced and neglected is still present.

Ann’s second public statement titled Gratitude from Ann Tuennerman and a Determination to Embrace Change begins: “Through publicly acknowledging the pain Paul and I have caused to many in our industry, we hope to demonstrate our sincerity, transparency and commitment to facing this head on.

Living up to this promise, on Monday 3/6/17, Ann did a live Facebook video interview with Ashtin Berry. Ashtin is a Bartender in New Orleans and happens to also be a female person of color. Ashtin has really taken great steps toward moving this conversation forward in a productive manner. You can find this video on the Bartender Journey Facebook page.

In his resignation note, Paul wrote, “My comment to Ann about blackface prior to the Zulu parade was meant to be a husband’s innocent teasing of his camera-shy wife, not a belittlement of others. In retrospect, the words were insensitive, hurtful and just plain dumb and I feel horrible for the pain they have caused.”

We’ll go back to my New Orleans Bartender friend to wrap this up. He said “I think Tales is a great thing and I hope the dust will settle. That being said…maybe the silver lining is the realization that black people as demographic are under represented in the Cocktail World".

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