HBCU Alumni Pair Wine & Philanthropy
An HBCU is a historically black college or university, established before the landmark Civil Rights Act in 1964, with the mission to meet the educational needs of Black students. The revered institutions allowed these students an opportunity to obtain higher education when virtually no other colleges would. HBCUs are perhaps more relevant today than ever before. They prepare ambitious students to learn and lead while inspiring a commitment to positive social change. Not only do they provide essential life skills, but they also build confidence in a culture of caring and instill the importance of community service. Black Greek-letter organizations are a pivotal part of the HBCU experience. Founded on service, these fraternities and sororities (known as the Divine Nine) have a rich history of raising prominent leaders who make significant contributions to the world. Philanthropists Donae Burston of La Fête du Rosé and Theodora Lee of Theopolis Vineyards share this unique heritage. Their recent endeavors prove that even in a pandemic, wine pairs well with giving back. Covid-19 may have canceled glitzy wine auctions and high-end fundraising dinners this year, but it can’t stop a giving spirit.
Donae Burston is an alumni of Clark Atlanta University (HBCU) and Georgia Institute of Technology. He is a member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity. After 15 years managing luxury wine brands, he launched La Fête du Rosé in the summer of 2019. His premium wine label has a mission of celebrating diversity and giving back to the community as a core tenet of its brand culture. La Fête du Rosé translates to “The Rosé Party” and conjures only good vibes for its loyal consumers. After the brutal murder of George Floyd this year reinvigorated the fight against racial justice and equity, Donae donated $2 of every bottle sold on his website from June to August to the Color of Change, the nation’s largest online racial justice organization. That same promotion also benefitted the Roots Fund, which empowers minorities in the wine industry by providing education, resources, opportunity, and mentorship. Donae, an avid traveler, most recently gifted $10,000 to All Abroad, a nonprofit organization based in Atlanta, GA. He bonded with its founder, Dr. Lawrence Ervin, over a mutual passion for empowering underrepresented youth through global travel. Both men are HBCU graduates who have experienced the life-changing effect of world travel. The generous donation will fund a service-focused trip to Africa in 2021 for high school students from Georgia and Maryland.
Donae’s thirst for life, travel, and wine shines through his brand and his personal life. His family often accompanies him to Saint-Tropez, where La Fête du Rosé is produced, and other exotic locales. The entrepreneur is the embodiment of Robert Louis Stevenson’s famous quote, “Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.” For more information, visit www.lafeterose.com.
Those in the wine world affectionately know Theodora Lee as Theo-patra, Queen of the Vineyards. She is the royal ruler of Theopolis Vineyards (est. 2003), her small-lot vineyard and hand-crafted winery located in California’s prestigious Yorkville Highlands of the Anderson Valley. The senior law firm partner and trial-lawyer-turned-vintner knows better than anyone the persuasive power of words and how wine can unite. She can often be found on panels (Zoom and IG Live these days) discussing employment law, diversity, or simply sharing her journey and inspiring a new generation of lawyers and winemakers alike.
Theodora is a graduate of Spelman College (HBCU) and the University of Texas School of Law. Before practicing law, she worked as a Senate intern in Washington, DC, for Senator Sam Nunn. With a “lift as you climb” philosophy, introduced at an early age, it’s no surprise that giving back to the community comes naturally for her. She has chaired and supported numerous nonprofit organizations including the YMCA of San Francisco, Bay Area Legal Aid, Alameda County Community Food Bank, and the United Negro College Fund. She is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority.
As a young, Black woman graduating law school in the late 1980s, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, the legendary pioneer in sex discrimination cases, was Theodora’s inspiration. “Despite efforts to hold her back, she persevered and changed the world,” states Theodora. “Everything about her life’s work is inspirational.” She directly attributes Ginsberg’s work with her opportunity to go to law school, become a partner in a global law firm, and pursue her dreams as a vintner. Following Justice Ginsberg’s death in September, she wanted to honor her in a unique and unifying way. Noting the power of wine to bring people together, she offered The Honorable “Notorious RBG” Three-Pack.Theodora contributed proceeds from the wine trio to the American Bar Foundation (ABF), one of Ginsberg’s favorite charities. The mission of ABF, which is to promote justice for all, is close to Theodora’s heart. She proudly donated $10,000 on October 6, 2020, to promote humanity and honor Ginsberg’s legacy.
Theodora firmly believes, “To whom much is given, much will be required” (Luke 12:48). In addition to a grueling career in law and the challenges of making wine, during a pandemic nonetheless, she somehow still finds the energy to donate her time and services while allowing us to sip for a great cause. No one wears two hats better. To learn more, visit www.theopolisvineyards.com.