As a self-described dark-skinned woman from Puerto Rico working in the white- and male-dominated wine industry, Mary Montalvo-Weyer says she has felt the sting of discrimination.
“I know what is to be stared at, to feel inferior, to be randomly stopped by police because [of] the car I drive or the way I look,” says Montalvo-Weyer, who owns Luisa’s Cellar in Sanford.
“We stand with our black brothers and sisters because nobody should be afraid of going outside for a walk, nobody should be lynched and murdered in a sidewalk because [of] misconceptions, bigotry and the color of our skin,” she said.
Hers was one of many Orlando-area wine businesses that posted messages of solidarity with Black Lives Matter protesters this week for “Blackout Tuesday,” a movement that started in the music industry as a day of mourning and activism in support of protests that have swept the country in the wake of George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police officers.
“This is not a political statement but rather a way to start real conversations about inequality of race and systemic racism in this country,” read the caption on Luisa’s Cellar’s Instagram and Facebook posts.
“I know that I may lose some business because of our stand,” Montalvo-Weyer said, “but in the end [it] is worth it knowing that we didn’t compromise our values for money.”
Some businesses like Swirlery Wine Bar and Quantum Leap Winery posted blacked-out squares in support of the movement.
The Parkview in Winter Park also posted a black square and added a message of support.
“As a business owner, I learned a long time ago not to express my personal beliefs on religion or politics, and to pretty much avoid issues that can polarize any patron,” said The Parkview’s owner Matt Coltrin, but “taking a stand against racism just isn’t an issue that should ever have an opposing side.”
“There’s only one side,” he continued, “Racism is [expletive] awful! We need to acknowledge that racism exists today in America – that it’s always existed. And knowing this to be true, I need to speak out against the injustice.”
Matt Uva of Curate, a natural wine pop up inside Eola General near downtown Orlando, echoed those sentiments.
“It is definitely difficult to speak out on controversial issues as a business owner because the business is worried about offending someone with money,” he said, “but I believe on this topic, there is no controversy – this is an issue of right versus wrong.”
On Curate’s Instagram account Tuesday, he shared this collage of four dozen African Americans who died in police incidents.
Uva then joined the protests for awhile, where he snapped the photo at the top of this post. He also sounded a warning.
“It’s important for all of us to not use this as an opportunity to self-promote,” he said. “We are only here to amplify the voices of our POC [people of color] brothers and sisters, and when necessary, use our white privilege to stand between them and law enforcement.”
Back at Luisa’s Cellar in Sanford, Mary Montalvo-Meyer issued a call for unity and solidarity.
“In the end, all of us are like good wine… we come in different colors, styles and intensities and this is what makes the world of wine so interesting and passionate,” she said. “Let’s stand together with Black Lives Matter and show that we can be agents of change.”
Feature Photo Credit: Matt Uva