As Downtown Dining Week was wrapping up last year, I posed a question on Facebook that garnered over 200 comments.
What are some good Black owned restaurants in Memphis? Should Memphis have a Black Restaurant Week?
I usually get a fair reach of likes and comments on my Facebook posts, nothing unusual than anyone else’s status or photos on the social media site. However, on this day, my notifications were causing my phone’s battery to not only die, but lose consciousness. My profile is public so people who I knew and have never seen nor talked to were commenting with their favorite lunch spots and date night favorites. Friends were tagging their foodie friends who would then give their list of frequented spots owned by Black people and their families.
I became overwhelmed (and hungry).
From soul food places to Jamaican cuisine, it was then that I knew Memphis deserved a Black Restaurant Week.
I gathered a few of my closest friends and colleagues to aid me with planning and hopefully rolling out what would be Memphis’ Black owned restaurant week. I was intentional in the selection process of those with whom I believed should be involved in this project. I was still a bit unsure how a week dedicated to Black owned businesses would come across to the diverse culture we have in Memphis. However, in a city almost seventy percent Black and with a little under one percent of city contracts awarded to Black and women owned businesses, I figured the conversation and action was long overdue.
Memphis Black Restaurant Week (MBRW), March 713, will feature eight restaurants around the city that will offer a special menus for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Only for that week, restaurants will offer a two course lunch for $15.00 and a three course dinner for $25.00. Restaurants include:
Efforts to support Black owned businesses in the United States and Memphis are not new.
In 2014 and 2014, we saw a national boycott of Black Friday shopping with an emphasis on supporting Black owned online and local businesses. In Memphis, Pastor Kenneth Whalum Jr., and his church founded “BustAMoveMonday,” an initiative to promote and support one Black owned business every first Monday of the month. These initiatives and others draw customers to not just support and buy products from Black businesses, but further invest in them through the social and economic empowerment within communities of color.
Supporting Black owned businesses also keeps money in our communities. According to a study by the Nielsen Company, Black Americans have a $1.1 trillion buying power collectively in 2015, making us a relevant consumer block. Though the numbers seem powerful enough to generate opportunities in the Black community, studies show that a dollar circulates in the Black community for only six hours versus 17 days in white communities. This alludes to the vast amount of unemployment, poverty, poor health and educational equity in our communities.
It’s time we move the needle and affect change where it needs to be. Memphis Black Restaurant Week was birthed out of a sincere desire for Blacks, especially young professionals, to get engaged and support our communities with our buying power while having fun doing it. Let’s face it: we all love to eat and most of us enjoying trying new places. This is an opportunity to do just that while meeting new people and engaging with Black businesses and those who support them around the city.
MBRW will not cure education inequity or eradicate poverty. However, we are hoping this small effort will not only introduce Memphians to new and delicious food, but new, effective and beneficial ways to give back to the community and connect with those outside of our comfort zones. For more information including special menus offered, please visit http://www.blackrestaurantweek.com