The International Society of Africans in Wine (ISAW) has a great story to tell. They have just landed in Cape Town after an exciting U.S. tour featuring African music, food and wine, while raising money and awareness to create opportunities for Africans in the country’s billion dollar wine industry.
Fresh from the effects of apartheid, which ended in 1994, South Africa boasts just two African families who own wineries in that country. ISAW is set to change things up by helping to reduce poverty and create economic opportunities in Africa through the business of wine.
I covered ISAW back in March and had a chance to meet up with Founder Stephen Satterfield during his recent stop in Seattle.
His story of how he created ISAW is inspiring and will open your eyes to how wine is being used for the greater good of humanity.
Here’s the interview!
Tell us about the ‘Drink Well, Do Good Tour’ and the cities you’ve visited.
The ‘Drink Well, Do Good Tour’ is a multi-city, international tour of mainly food and wine events and concerts. It’s put on by our foundation ISAW to raise money and awareness for our cause, which is to use wine as a way to reduce poverty in South Africa. The tour started in New Orleans and is traveling through cities across the country including Austin, San Francisco, Eugene, Portland, Seattle, Vancouver, Chicago, Boston, New York, Washington D.C., Detroit, and Atlanta. The final destination is in Capetown, South Africa.
Talk a little bit about South Africa’s history and why this tour is so important to the country.
The thing that people should know about South African wines is that the industry there is 350 years old. So it’s not considered a new world growing region, actually in fact it’s pretty old world. And the industry itself was founded on slave labor after colonization took place. The by-product of that has been many generations of disenfranchised indigenous workers. So what our vision is, is to use this thriving industry that is creating wealth for so many others and to train the workers to move freely from focusing on just grape picking to other facets of the wine industry where they can expand their footprint and have a better life for themselves and their families. Hence the ‘Drink Well, Do Good Tour’. So we’re working with and promoting primarily two families- one is M’hudi and the other one is Seven Sisters. They are the first and the second, respectively, black owned vineyards in South Africa.
With this tour you are looking to raise money for a school to be built in South Africa?
That’s right. So in addition to raising awareness with this tour these events are set up to raise money to begin construction on a viticultural center in Stellenbosch which will actually be on the M’hudi Estate. So there’s a really cool, symbolic partnership that’s happening there as well.
So how did you get your start in the wine industry?
I went to a culinary school in Portland and thought about being a chef, and then thought better about it (laughs) after I had to work in some kitchens. But I was really inspired by the wine industry during the time that I spent in Portland. Of course, the Willamette Valley is an incredible wine region. And then from there I moved to Atlanta a couple years ago. I knew I wanted to stay involved in the wine industry but also to have an opportunity to increase the well-being for others. ISAW has been a unique opportunity and I’ve been at it for about 2 years now.
What is your connection to South Africa? How did you get involved with the wine industry there and what led you to create the ISAW Foundation?
I don’t have a reason to be involved with South Africa other than I was really taken aback by the socio-economic landscape of the wine industry there. I was a sommelier at the time and I know that there’s not many African Americans in the wine business in any capacity. When I learned about the M’hudi and Seven Sisters families in South Africa I actually went over there and met them first hand. After that visit it became very clear in my mind that this was the project I wanted to take on, indefinitely.
It’s been hard. I mean it’s not easy. Starting a small business is not easy, philanthropy is not easy, film production is not easy, educating people about social issues is not easy. I could go on and on. The cause and message is not easy to get across, but we’ve created the ‘Drink Well, Do Good’ part of the message which we’ve tried to make easy. We are trying to become better at getting people to understand why it’s important for South Africans to have access to education.
It sounds like you’re educating people about the South African Wine Industry in a really positive way. Can you talk a little about the performances and events you’ve done on this tour?
First of all I should say that we will do this again next year, or if not next year, certainly in the future. It’s been a really great way to engage people by meeting their interests as food and wine lovers, or as music lovers. So the groups that we have in Seattle are Afrobeat groups- the headliner is The Chicago Afrobeat Project who have been on tour with us since San Francisco. So you’re talking like 4 or 5 piece music sections, heavy percussion, lots of rhythm, fun high-energy music. So the concerts have been alot of fun. Depending on the region and the market in each town is how we bill the concert, and we focus on music with African roots to fit into the context of the tour.
(Wanna check out some concert footage?)
(this video distributed by Tubemogul)
For those of us who want to support your mission, how can we donate to ISAW?
Thanks for asking! We are a 501c3 so that is a way that we keep gas in the tank so to speak in tour language. You can go to the ISAW Foundation homepage and you’ll find a really big icon that says “Make a Donation” at the bottom of the page. Click on that and we have alot of different opportunities to donate. People can start at $5 on up. We understand that everyone has different abilities to donate.
How can people follow what you’re doing and stay informed on ISAW’s progress?
So all our communication is very transparent. We have a blog which I’ve been updating on the tour at ToastAfrica.com/blog. We’ll always keep people informed on what’s happening with the Foundation through our newsletter, and if you want to receive our newsletter go to ISAWfoundation.org. You can also send me an email- I’m at firstname.lastname@example.org. You’ll also find tons of information and video footage of the tour on our Facebook page. We really try to use social media to get our information out there.
If you would like to hear more from Stephen, check out this video!
(video distributed by Tubemogul)
Something to keep your eye out for… While at the concert in Seattle I caught up with Danielle Bernstein, an award-winning film maker out of New York City. She is creating a documentary of the tour set to be released next fall. As well, once the viticultural center is opened in South Africa she plans to document the life of a student from their first day of class through the creation of their own winery.