By day, Chris Mincey can be found at Raleigh’s Trophy Brewing, where he leads the sales team, but since 2020, his work has expanded into the nonprofit space. Mincey now serves as a board member and director of development for Friends of Oberlin Village, a grassroots organization that preserves and promotes one of the state’s last remaining African American–founded municipalities. Mincey’s role, like all others in the organization, is volunteer-based.
Oberlin Village predates the Civil War, with many modern-day descendants able to trace their lineage back generations, and yet few North Carolinians know the rich history behind the freedmen’s town. Part of Mincey’s role is to spread the word, whether by expanding its outreach efforts or forging new connections with local businesses and other groups, like Together We Stand.
On Saturday, June 17, Friends of Oberlin Village will hold its second Annual Oberlin Village Heritage 5K Run & Walk. As a runner, Mincey had a hunch an event like this would resonate with locals—and he was right. In its inaugural year, the 5K garnered about 500 registrations and $20,000, making it the organization’s biggest fundraiser. He expects this year to be even larger. CLICK HERE FOR MORE DETAILS.
For Mincey, preserving history is the first step in reconciling centuries-old injustices. But protecting history begins with raising awareness and educating the community—and that’s where he and Friends of Oberlin Village come in.
How did you first become involved with Friends of Oberlin Village?
I was walking through the neighborhood with my wife, and she goes, ‘Let’s go check out this old cemetery,’ and it was Oberlin Cemetery, and we had no clue. It’s nestled between townhouses, shops, and [the nonprofit] InterAct. It's just hidden back there.
It was so moving to see these old tombstones, but many of them were in bad shape. I saw on a little sign that Friends of Oberlin was always looking for volunteers. Three years later, I'm somehow on the board and the director of development and running several of the events. My labor of love is Trophy, but now I have a new labor of love when it comes to volunteer work. And so, I found a way to balance the two.
In what ways has your work at Trophy Brewing and Friends of Oberlin Village dovetailed?
Two years ago, we made a beer that had artwork that represented Oberlin Village. You could scan the can, and it would take you straight to the Friends of Oberlin Village (FOV) website so you could learn more, and a percentage of the proceeds went to FOV, too. And so, it was a special time for me to be able to marry the two passions into one. It was a really good beer, and we get asked all the time, ‘When are you going to make that again?’ We'll probably make it again in February next year.
I think it's important for any business to be a part of their community. At Trophy, we are very embedded in our community and what we do and how we are allies. We give days off for community work, and it's such an important thing. Historically, breweries and brewpubs are meeting places for the community. I think we have so many people from different worlds meeting one another so why not just expand that?
When did Friends of Oberlin Village start collaborating with Together We Stand?
I met [founder] Tyrone Irby when he was in the beer world in the mid-90s. He was the first person I ever met that had a career in beer. At the time, I was in my 20s and I was like, ‘Wow, this could be a thing.’
Over the last few years, I would see posts he was doing for Together We Stand and I was so proud. And as it turns out, we have a mutual friend and colleague that kind of brought us together in this current world, with me and Friends of Oberlin and him and Together We Stand. We needed to find a way to partner.
In addition to year-round programming such as guided walking tours and cemetery clean-ups, what special events does Friends of Oberlin Village host?
Up until three years ago, the only event we were doing was our Celebrate Oberlin BBQ, which we just had in May. It started out as more of a celebration to get residents of Oberlin Village out and telling their stories and inviting the community. But now it's become a much bigger community draw. We want people to come and celebrate and interact with residents and descendants who may no longer live in Oberlin but have a wealth of stories. It's a great fundraiser for us.
Then, about two years ago, I got the crazy idea to start a 5K. I've learned a new skill set when it comes to managing a 5K, and it's been a great experience, but when we started this, we had no clue how to run 5K, or [rather] organize a 5K—I could run a 5K but not organize one; it was a completely different thing.
It’s still a lesson because this is our second year. A lot of things we're doing this year we didn't do our first year because we didn't want to take on too much. We were like, let's take baby steps, let's be as basic as we can, but provide this great experience for the participants. And this year, I think we can grow a bit. It’s become our biggest fundraiser. Just in our first year, we were able to raise $20,000. We're very proud of that. Hopefully, this year, we can grow in participants and dollars raised as well.
Together We Stand NC
Name: Chris Mincey
Job(s): Sales Director, Trophy Brewing
Director of Development, Friends of Oberlin Village
TWS Elevator since: 2022
How does raising awareness lead to change?
One of the biggest things we're about is awareness and protecting what's there. Through awareness, protection can come; more people will be fighting your cause. Over the last few years, that intention has spread into awareness of some of the names in Raleigh that have been celebrated like [plantation owner and enslaver] Duncan Cameron of Cameron Village and [News & Observer publisher and white supremist] Josephus Daniels.
We have a great relationship with [property management company] Regency Centers and the Village District. And as we started to build this relationship we asked, what can you do about the name? This is a name that's been embedded in Raleigh history for 60-plus years—it’s not something easy to do. It’s a brand unto itself. So we didn't think anything would happen, but then almost two years ago, they changed it from Cameron Village to the Village District. And Oberlin Middle School is now what used to be Daniels Middle School. And we've seen some roads change as well.
It’s a great example of what let us make as many people aware of the Village and what some of these Raleigh historic figures we're all about. I think people will do the right thing—certainly Regency Centers did. So growing that awareness, I think, has been just the key for us.
What’s one obstacle FOV currently faces?
It’s been surprising how challenging it is to get volunteers in today's landscape. This is just my opinion, but I feel social media has altered how we engage. Quite often, engagement and volunteering may look like sharing events, sharing causes, sharing posts, and donating via social media outlets. But actually getting people out has been a little tougher to see. I thought, ‘Oh, I volunteered at the drop of a dime, so I'm sure there's hundreds of me that want to do the same.’ And that has been challenging.
What’s next for FOV?
We’ve begun weaving into other communities and working with advocates for social justice. It’s a broader scope for us. The way I look at it is African American history—protecting it and holding it up—is social justice. Because if we ignore that, everything else crumbles. So that's my small part in just protecting and making people aware of this particular history in Raleigh. I think more, and even better things will come. Seeing these name changes is probably one of the proudest moments in my three years at Friends of Oberlin Village. We had conversations, we had dialogue, we had open ears and open hearts, and they gratefully changed the name and continue to work with us and protect what does exist.
How can people learn more and get involved?
What I would like is for people to open their minds and be adventurous in knowing more of the history of their surroundings. Go take a walk through Oberlin Village. I think if they did, they'd have a thirst to learn more. And so I would just ask people to park their car in Oberlin Village and walk around and take a self-guided tour and then visit us on our website and come and volunteer.
Learn more about Friends of Oberlin Village by visiting friendsofoberlinvillage.org. Sign up for the Oberlin Village Heritage 5K here.
Elevator Profile: Trophy Brewing’s Chris Mincey on Friends of Oberlin Village and Protecting History