Photo Credit: Brown Skin Brunchin
Brown Skin Brunchin:The Club Bringing Black Women Together Over Food and Travel
Lillian Jackson and Melissa Mason have been besties since their days as second-graders at Blackwell Elementary School in Richmond, Virginia. When Jackson started relocating for work — first to Pennsylvania then to Las Vegas, Nevada — the two started thinking of ways to expand their circle of friends, so they wouldn’t feel isolated in their respective cities. They turned to an activity they had often enjoyed together, brunch.
“We noticed, too, that just in talking with people, they were kind of experiencing the same thing,” Mason told Travel Noire. “You have a lot of people in new places, or you’re just at a certain point in your life where you’re so used to the people that you’ve already been around, that you’re kind of afraid to reach out to new people. And we found that one of the best ways to break that ice and get people to really engage with one another was over food and drinks.”
Together they created Brown Skin Brunchin, a monthly brunch club for women of color desirous of “expanding their personal and professional circles in an unconventional, yet fun way.” For their first event, they decided to go back home.
“Richmond is definitely becoming a foodie city,” said Mason. “So we kind of put the feelers out there and posted the event. We originally planned for just a few people, and we had to contact the restaurants to increase the capacity because as soon as it was out, it was completely sold out.”
The group now has a presence in 20 cities across the United States, with plans to continue expanding. From that first brunch of 15 participants, they have grown to over 300 members, meeting up at a different restaurant in various cities at least once a month.
There are organizers in each city overseeing the activities and syncing schedules. Each group picks the brunch weekend that works best for them. In Las Vegas, that day is the second Sunday of every month, while in Los Angeles, the ladies convene on every third Saturday. As a collective group, they stay connected through a Facebook page, 4,500 deep. They also incorporate unique travel experiences into their yearly program.
“We have had a trip to Napa, Temecula — we love wine — Las Vegas, and Los Angeles,” shared Jackson. “Last year was actually going to be our first international trip and COVID shut that down. But we do travel as a group. A lot of people don’t have friends to travel with and once they make those connections over brunch, they’re seeking out new things to do and new ways to connect and travel is definitely one of those things.”
But food is at the core of their brunch bond along with a heavy dose of adult beverages.
“I think I like most of the sweet stuff, like French toast, and then you can’t go wrong with a good drink. Brunch is the reason why you can drink during the day,” said Jackson.
Mason chimed in, “I don’t know about the food but mimosas are definitely one of the things that I’m looking for on the menu. How many flavors do you have and how many can I get?”
But both ladies want Brown Skin Brunchin to be more than just a good time. They’re working on creating their own site and app, where Black-owned brunch spots will be highlighted. Community service is also an important part of their mission. The goal is a continuing education scholarship for group members, a cause that hits close to home for both Jackson and Mason.
“We both finished our college careers as adults and with children,” explained Jackson. “So we know how hard it can be to have access to things like scholarships when you’re not that traditional student. So that’s one of the things that’s really important to us.”
In the short term, they’re hoping to hit 50 cities by the end of 2021 and finally take that international trip in 2022. Their first destination is Paris, where they will visit the Moulin Rouge, before heading for Nice in the South of France. One member is also considering starting a Brown Skin Brunchin chapter in Japan. But as the brand grows, Jackson and Mason still find time to nurture their longtime friendship.
“Sometimes it’s not just brunch, but brunch is definitely incorporated,” Mason said of their friend dates. “Before everything shut down, I think we met at least about three times or more a year, whether I was coming there or whether we were meeting in a different city just to take a quick trip. Actually, about two weeks ago was the first time I had the chance to see her in the last year and a half with everything going on. So that was definitely exciting. But yeah, we try to get together as often as work, life, and kids’ schedules allow.”