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Interview w/ Gabrielle Hitchens, Founder of Raw Honey

 I've had the pleasure of getting to know Gabrielle over these past few months. Watching her grow Raw Honey has been nothing short of inspiring. She is hard-working, passionate, and unbelievably thoughtful in her pursuit of creating space for the underserved QTBIPOC community. I am proud to help share her story and highlight the important work she is doing with Raw Honey.  - nicole, founder of gayjoy

Who is Gabrielle?

I’m from Indianapolis, Indiana and a proud HBCU graduate of Florida A&M University. I would say every step in my life has prepared to become an QTBIPOC organizer. At FAMU I was Class President and Chair of Campus Activities. Post grad, I’ve worked in sales at companies like Miller and Coors Light, L’Oreal Paris, and currently Coca Cola.

I am so thankful to be able to use all of my experience to create something bigger than myself and to be walking in my purpose. 

Could you describe Raw Honey in a sentence for me? Or one to three sentences?

Raw Honey is about being raw and unapologetically queer. Also knowing that there is so much healing in being your authentic self. The honey aspect came from being in lockdown in the pandemic. In 2020 I had took a promotion in pricing and revenue management, completely outside of my comfort zone and ended up getting fired from the beer industry. During that time I was down bad lol, I moved to NYC and was doing a lot  of soul searching. I found myself using a lot of Raw Honey in my tea at home and sat down one night and came up with the concept.

Where is Raw Honey in three years and then in 10 years?

I want Raw Honey to be a destination for all things queer, culture, and QTBIPOC community. So the biggest thing right now is networking and gathering resources so we can continue to grow and have more offerings for the community.

I am actively looking to work with people that have experience in nightlife, strategic planning, partnerships, contracts, and more. 

Who is the team? Are you growing the team?

I've been thankful for the many friends and people from the community that have helped in countless ways with event execution. The support has been truly amazing!

However the day to day, event planning, social media, graphics etc is all handled by me. But I am actively looking for people to join my team!

What has been one of the proudest moments so far?

I think the proudest moment hands down would be during Queerpalooza when I hosted Pridefest. I had only been doing events for about six or seven months and to have NYC Pride hit me up and say, "Hey, we want you to host Pride Fest, in front of 100k people." I'm like, "Me?" Like, "You want me?" And I just assumed they were going to be like, "Okay, well we have some other candidates, we're going to get back to you and eventually go with another candidate.” But they were like, "No, we want to work with you please look over the contract and get back to us.”

What's been one of the harder moments?

In general QTBIPOC do not go out or spend as much as the general public or other LGBTQIA communities. Which creates pressure sometimes to open Raw Honey events to the general public.

Given that Raw Honey’s mission to be an exclusive space for QTBIPOC, that means the smaller the target audience the harder it is to fill a venue.  Which means occasionally having to come out of pocket hundreds or sometimes thousands of dollars to cover expenses due to low turn out. 

What is a dream Raw Honey event if you had unlimited budget?

I really want to be able to do more large scale events where everything is free and still be able to generate enough or have funding to pay all creatives and dj’s. And it just be a good time, people come in and out freely and have space for people to sit and connect. People love to sit and play games and just talk. Nightlife isn't always just about standing around and dancing.

What about brands? What would be a dream brand partner?

Im open to anything that aligns with social, wellness, and community. I would love to work consistently with a liquor brand, a wellness brand, or even a dating app to provide more resources and experiences for QTBIPOC. 

What do you wish you could tell people who come to Raw Honey? 

I would just say thank you first for your continued support, for buying tickets, sharing the page with your friends Etc. I have people that come to every event and I'm just so thankful. I feel so full when I see people come by themselves and make friends, now I see those friends hanging out every weekend. That is what makes me happy, bringing people together. Also thank you for your patience and continued support, I am only one person and I am figuring things out through trial and error day by day. 

How can the white queer community show up for you as allies in this moment?

I like that question because I don't want it to seem like I am not welcoming or supportive of allies because I've had really great relationships and opportunities come from allies. Honestly, I wouldn't be where I am today, in my career and with Raw Honey, without the support of allies giving me spaces or resources. 

I think the biggest way allies can show up is through resources and connections. Whether it be partnerships, introductions, access to venues etc. I'm still new to New York so this would go a long way! 

What is your favorite event to produce out of all the different types of events you do?

My favorite event is definitely a game night. Something where people can sit and connect, and introverts can thrive. I enjoy seeing groups of people come together as strangers and leave with new friends and connections.