Local beer labeled “cultural appropriation”


CHARLESTON, SC (WCBD) – Some members of the Gullah Geechee community are demanding a local brewery rename one of its beers they say is “cultural appropriation.”

Revelry Brewing Company makes ‘Gullah Cream Ale’ from grits sourced on Edisto Island. The beer recently won a gold medal at the U.S. Open Beer Championships. Revelry co-owner Sean Fleming says it is an homage to a culture he grew up around. “It’s kind of a sense of pride with it to be so young and to be able to represent Charleston in this way,” said Fleming. “It wasn’t until we decided to put it into a can that it created a little bit of controversy.”

KJ Kearney identifies himself as Gullah Geechee and says he’s not alone in thinking the beer’s name is making his heritage a mascot – there are others behind him. “We talk about the mascotification of a culture,” said Kearney. “(It) hasn’t worked out too well for Native Americans and my fear is that this beer is a step in that direction.”

Revelry donates the profits from the sale of distributed cans to the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor and hands out GGCHC pamphlets when someone orders the beer in their taproom. Kearney gives the brewery some credit for its effort, but says Revelry should not use the word “Gullah” because they are not a part of the culture. “There are other ways to bring awareness to a culture that is currently losing its land,” said Kearney. “There’s a lot of problems going on with us.”

“The word Gullah is not owned by anybody,” said Dr. J. Herman Blake, the executive director of the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor. Revelry met with Dr. Blake before it began canning the beer. “I was impressed with those young men,” said Dr. Blake. “I think they are sincere, have good intentions, and I respect that.”

Fleming met with some of those against the name of the beer at Revelry earlier this month. He plans to work with them in the future on events, but he says changing the name may cease the dialogue they have started. “It’s so easy to change a name to turn the conversation,” said Fleming. “It’s our way of respecting and honoring the culture.”

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