Chalonda White checked her phone and saw a strange and jarring email.
It was just three sentences and 35 words, sent to the address on her Afro Beer Chick website, where White, of Chicago, has blogged about her love of craft beer since 2017. It came from a name she’d never heard of _ she suspects it was a pseudonym _ laced with hate, misogyny and racism, including three uses of the N-word.
White took the proverbial high road in her reply, even offering to get a beer: “Well you seem so upset … wanna have a beer and a discussion? I can’t take you serious when you hide behind technology.”
Then she made her most crucial decision: She posted a screen shot of the exchange to Twitter.
Initial rage on White’s behalf quickly morphed though, as J. Jackson-Beckham, the Brewers Association’s diversity ambassador, issued a Twitter plea “to channel this feeling into something positive.”
Jackson-Beckham called for people to write a short biography, snap a selfie and use the hashtag #IAmCraftBeer to “create (a) huge enduring reminder of the incredible diversity in our community!”
To Jackson-Beckham’s delight and White’s surprise, the responses poured in.
They came from women and men. People of all colors. Queer and heterosexual. Immigrants and American-born. Religions of all sorts and people from across the globe, including Spain, South Africa, India, Japan, Germany, Scotland, Ireland, Mexico, Brazil, Canada and Scandinavia, Jackson-Beckham said.
The short biographies often veered into the social, the political and the personal, each made more powerful by the selfie (usually with beer in hand).
“I kind of can’t wrap my head around it honestly,” Jackson-Beckham said. “Obviously, when I put it out there I hoped people would pick it up and run with it, but I really didn’t think it would do what its doing now. On some level, I think when a good thing comes along, people are like, ‘Yeah I just needed a good thing away from cynicism or an argument.’”
White, a mother of two who has worked in administrative support at the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago for 18 years _ and forsook Miller Genuine Draft, Heineken and Corona when her husband handed her Goose Island’s Sofie 10 years ago _ found the response “wonderful.”
She met Jackson-Beckham last month at Fresh Fest, a beer festival in Pittsburgh highlighting breweries owned by black people.
“I’m so excited we turned something so ugly into something so beautiful,” White said.
Whoever sent the email was probably looking for the opposite response, she said. (That person did not reply to a request for comment.)
“We could have reacted in anger, but that’s probably what he wanted,” White said. “And we didn’t give him that.”