The Global Food and Drink Initiative (GFDI) is a multimedia nonprofit that aims to “share, connect and preserve the history and culture of the African diaspora” by encouraging members of the communities global to have pride in who they are, their language, cuisine, traditions and heritage.
The organization will focus on three pillars:
- Serving communities through authentic storytelling, inspiring them to make sure their own stories are told and passed down from generation to generation
- Supporting Black small business owners in their pursuits of building legacy businesses and generational wealth in the food, drink and travel industries.
- Leading diverse conversations and creating and facilitating diversity and inclusion opportunities in the food, drink and travel industries
GFDI was founded by executive director and publisher V. Sheree Williams after growing frustrations of being a Black-owned media company unable to grow without advertisers and sponsors’ support. This led to limitations in expanding the work and impact of stories told through the magazine Cuisine Noir she took over from founder Richard Pannell in 2008.
As the publisher and editor of the world’s only print and digital magazine that connects the African diaspora through food, drink and travel, she brings more than a decade of experience in the media industry, along with a strong background in marketing, public relations, photojournalism and diversity and inclusion consulting.
“Part of my struggle of being in this food media space is that advertisers lumped Black consumers into general market campaigns, not seeing the value that a niche publication like Cuisine Noir has to offer,” she said. “2020 was especially a tough year with an unexpected pandemic and its impact on all businesses, whether big, medium or small. In addition, we saw a racial reckoning that brought well-deserved attention to Black-owned businesses. However, when it comes to brands and advertisers supporting Black media outlets, nothing has changed. It is still a major issue of spending inequity that needs to be addressed with action.”
After months of brainstorming and thinking about how to move the needle forward during the most challenging time in the magazine’s history, Williams initially conceived the ideal to expand Cuisine Noir’s impact over the summer. She created by The Global Food and Drink Initiative, which will essentially provide more support and opportunities for the work she and her global team are doing while serving and supporting communities of consumers and business owners.
In the works are curated video content, online engagements, printed products, and partnerships with incubators, publishers and industry leaders. “I am very excited about all we have planned. This transition was unknowingly a long time in the making and one that feels right.”
Assisting in this endeavor is a trusted board of directors and advisors of professionals that Williams has worked with over the years. They are game-changers in their fields, fierce supporters of Cuisine Noir and all that GFDI stands for, and will lend their skills and expertise to the impact envisioned. More about them in our next blog post.
Meanwhile, stay tuned for the kick-off of our first reader campaign in February 2021 – one of the many ways Cuisine Noir readers and GFDI donors can support the work that Williams and her team are so passionate about doing that has been life-changing for so many over the last 11 years.