Featured photo: Tasia Wilson, the organizer of the Brown Skin Brunchin’ at Sweet Potatoes in Winston Salem on June 11, 2022. (photo by Juliet Coen)

Tasia Wilson wears a maxi dress of white-and-green paisley that brushes up against her ankles, her feet sit secured in strappy sandals with clear bands. Her hair hangs comfortably in loose locs just past her shoulders and her dark brown eyes match her caramel-colored, tortoiseshell glasses. She’s dressed up, but not too much. It’s the perfect fit for brunch.

As she enters the doors at Sweet Potatoes in Winston-Salem on Saturday just past noon, she asks the host if they could put a few tables together; she’s expecting company.

As she waits for the others, she walks back to her car parked across the street and pulls out a bag full of accoutrement for the event. Back in the restaurant she sets up a letterboard on top of the table where she’s been seated. “Welcome to Brown Skin Brunchin’ Winston-Salem,” it reads.

“You know, Black people culturally, we’ve always kind of gathered together and food is that common denominator that gets people to open up,” Wilson says. “So being able to do that and you know, feel beautiful while you’re doing it because when you think brunch, you kind of dress up a little bit right? It makes me feel really good that I’m able to provide that space for people.”

The outside of Sweet Potatoes in Winston Salem on June 11, 2022. (photo by Juliet Coen)

Wilson has hosted five events this year as the Winston-Salem ambassador for Brown Skin Brunchin’, an international organization that was started in 2018 by founders Lillian Jackson and Melissa Mason. The goal of Brown Skin Brunchin’ is to create a space for Black women to gather, network and enjoy brunch together. Attendees pay $10 in addition to paying for their meals to join the event, which goes directly back to helping offset operating costs for the organization. Currently, Brown Skin Brunchin’ operates in 70 cities with more than 1,000 members participating in in-person events per month. And while the concept is simple, it’s become an important part of Wilson’s life.

“It’s freeing,” Wilson says. “I feel like we have a space to talk about things that are unique to us as Black women. I feel like we can be ourselves.”

Wilson initially heard about Brown Skin Brunchin’ from a friend who discovered an event in Raleigh. After finding out that the event was full, Wilson reached out via the website to see if she could start a chapter in Winston-Salem. Since January, Wilson has hosted a brunch each month at various locations in the city including Cin Cin Burger Bar, Firebirds, Bleu and Sixth and Vine. For June, she wanted to highlight a Black-owned business because of the Juneteenth holiday. As a social worker by training, Wilson says she loves being able to connect with people and facilitate relationships.

Participants in the Brown Skin Brunchin’ enjoy appetizers at Sweet Potatoes in Winston Salem on June 11, 2022. (photo by Juliet Coen)

“I love to be the person that has the resources,” she says. “I’ve actually made connections through this, so one part I like to do is do introductions and have people talk about their business and just random things that come up.”

As she sits at the table for 10, a few women start to trickle into the restaurant. As soon as they see the sign, they walk over.

Vicki Preston, who found out about the Winston-Salem chapter via Instagram, has attended three of the brunches since they started. She recently moved to the city and says she was looking for a community of brunchers.

“Moving to a new place for me and not knowing anyone, I just wanted to meet new people who have common interests and brunch and women who are like minded,” Preston says. “The image that is normally portrayed [for brunch], all the faces don’t look like us…. You feel comfortable being your authentic self. Last time, we played games and we played urban trivia.”

Brunch cocktails from Sweet Potatoes in Winston Salem on June 11, 2022. (photo by Juliet Coen)

Etaundra Thomas says the group was a way to be social outside the home after raising her children.

“I was looking for camaraderie,” says Thomas, who was attending her first brunch this month. “I’m an empty-nester so I was looking for something to belong to.”

Like Preston, mother-and-daughter duo Shakeyda Jones and Najhia Myers are new to Winston-Salem. Dressed in matching floral crop tank tops, Jones says she found out about the organization on Instagram and decided to come as soon as her work schedule as a nurse allowed.

“I was like, food? And my people? Absolutely,” Jones says.

Mother-and-daughter duo Shakeyda Jones and Najhia Myers (left center) attend Brown Skin Brunchin’ at Sweet Potatoes in Winston Salem on June 11, 2022. (photo by Juliet Coen)

Seeing a group of Black women gathered like this is heartening for her and is good for society, Jones says.

“I feel like the way they portray brown-skinned people in the media as monsters, as beasts, as uneducated, as violent,” Jones says. “That’s the bottom of any culture but they take those people and represent us as brown people and that’s just not true. So this is an opportunity to show people we are not like that.

“This is healthy,” she continues, sipping her sangria.

To learn more about Brown Skin Brunchin’ visit brownskinbrunchin.com. The next Winston-Salem event will take place at Famous Toastery on July 23. To sign up, download the app and reserve your spot.

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