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Read Between The Wine

August 24, 2020

A self-proclaimed community architect and lover of Black literature, Chelsea Scott is the Founder and NYC Chapter President of Read Between the Wine. Scott is a New Jersey native and a 2018 graduate of Duke University. Following college, she launched her career as a Strategy Consultant at Deloitte Consulting in New York City where she focuses on technology, media, and entertainment. Scott shares as her inspiration for founding Read Between the Wine, “I recognize the healing power of storytelling and the ‘aha!’ moments when we see pieces of our own story reflected in the stories of others. For this reason, I am deeply invested in creating communities that promote self-reflection, connection through literature and shared stories, and ultimately elevation for black women.”

What is Read Between the Wine and what motivated you to found the book club?

I started Read Between the Wine in May 2018, the month I graduated from Duke University. During this period of transition, I yearned for a community of women to navigate the many personal, social, and professional changes associated with launching a career in one of the largest cities in the world. Through conversations, I found that women in my network also yearned for a space offering candid conversation and the opportunity to meet other Black women. Thus, Read Between the Wine Book Club was birthed as a space for Black women between 20-30 years old to connect through an intellectually stimulating, untraditional social community. Our New York chapter has 100 members and our Washington D.C. chapter, which was established in May 2019, has 60 members. We exclusively read books written by Black women authors and convene monthly for our book discussion and fellowship.

Mission Statement: Read Between the Wine is committed to amplifying the voices of Black authors using literature as an entry point to connect Black womxn in their twenties from all walks of life. The books we select inform social and educational experiences that contribute to the constructive development of our members, as well as community service initiatives targeting marginalized groups.

What books have been on the Read Between the Wine reading list? How do you choose which books to read?

Members select the monthly read via a poll, which always has three options. Some of our favorite books have been:
- An American Marriage (Tayari Jones)
- Pushout: The Criminalization of Black Girls in Schools (Monique W. Morris)
- Homegoing (Yaa Gyasi)
- Children of Blood and Bone (Tomi Adeyemi)
- Heads of the Colored People (Nafissa Thompson-Spires)
- Thick: And Other Essays (Tressie McMillan Cottom)
- More Than Enough (Elaine Welteroth)
- Such A Fun Age (Kiley Reid)
- Zami: A New Spelling of My Name (Audre Lorde) 

We are currently reading The Beauty in Breaking, Michele Harper’s debut book and an instant New York Times bestseller. 

Over the past 2 years Read Between the Wine has developed beyond the typical book club experience to include events like the Period Party in 2019 and recent Graduate School Panel. Can you tell me a little bit more about the journey of Read Between the Wine’s success in getting to where it is today?

Read Between the Wine has certainly evolved over the past two years—from our first 10-person meeting in the back room of a Brooklyn restaurant to now being a full-blown operation with six committees and a leadership team. As we’ve grown, we [the leadership team and I] are focused on curating a community centered on member experience and offering events and experiences tailored to members’ interests. Pre-COVID, we hosted regular social events including monthly wine downs and engagement in the arts community (plays, museums, film, etc.). COVID presents a unique opportunity to offer weekly virtual programming and create greater connectedness between our NY and DC chapters. Some of our most popular virtual events have been a personal styling workshop featuring Imani Ross from our DC chapter, and a homeownership panel facilitated by members of both our New York and DC chapters. In addition to social activities, the women of Read Between the Wine are passionate about uplifting the NYC and DC communities through quarterly community service projects. Two projects that resonated most with me were the virtual career fair that we hosted for 100 Black high school girls across the country and hosting a back to school drive to fully fund the classroom supplies for two black women educators in New York City.

What is the most challenging experience you’d have as the founder of Read Between the Wine?

The greatest challenge has been balancing the rapid growth of our community while ensuring that the intimacy and sisterhood that make RBTW special are maintained. We’ve implemented multiple initiatives, such as Girlfriend Fridays, which randomly pairs members of our community together to establish relationships through weekly prompts to facilitate 1:1 connection. We also meet in members’ homes (pre-COVID, of course!), which adds to the sense of intimacy.

The most rewarding?

The most rewarding part of leading Read Between the Wine is witnessing so many of my peers find “their people” and sense of belonging through this community. A quote that always sticks with me from one of our members is, “RBTW provides a safe haven where you can connect and network with brilliant, inspiring, and ambitious black women in the city. Prior to joining RBTW, the number one word I used to describe living in the city was 'isolating.' Now, with the help of all my book club girlfriends, NY has slowly but surely transformed into 'home.'” Read Between the Wine is a community overflowing with sisterhood and warmth for young Black women, many of whom recently relocated to NYC or DC in pursuit of their dreams. I love how RBTW has become a cornerstone for many women’s early twenties.

On a related note, how has your experience been working as a young Black woman at a top consulting firm?

My comfort with stepping into my Black womanhood in a professional setting has expanded during my two years since graduation. When I first began my career in 2018, I covered much of who I was and toned down my Blackness for the comfort of my team members. However, Read Between the Wine largely served as an entry point to stepping into a fuller version of myself at work. A few months into my first case, I mentioned Read Between the Wine to my manager and her interest and excitement created space for me to talk about Black literature and culture more openly. I added my manager to the RBTW reading list, have had working sessions with team members to develop the RBTW pitch deck, and have several coworkers who regularly send me book recommendations for the RBTW poll. More often than not, corporate America forces Black women to minimize our Blackness and, while that definitely is prevalent in my experience, I’ve been fortunate to also have coworkers that welcome authenticity and take a genuine interest in the things that are important to me. Working in corporate America, especially given the state of race relations in America, I am also learning how to communicate my needs unapologetically. The emotional weight of being a Black woman in America is real and I am working towards setting healthy boundaries especially when I need to prioritize my mental health and wellness.

Are there any other stories or advice you would like to share?

I’ll just close by saying that Black woman sisterhood is one of the powerful forces on the planet. When we come together in a productive, loving community there’s no limit to where we can take it. Through Read Between the Wine, I’ve uncovered a true passion for creating spaces that uplift Black women. Thank you for letting me share pieces of this journey with the Let’s Not Forget community.

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