Thousands of Black Chicagoans Participate First Black Chicago Eats Weeks
Black Chicago “showed up and showed out” as they say! The launch of BlackChicagoEats.com spotlighting Chicago area Black-owned restaurants making them easier to find sparked a citywide, micro “buy Black” campaign this summer.
Black people. Activists. Foodies. Social Entrepreneurs. Professionals. So many people throughout the city gave much attention to this campaign.
The impact has been real. Diners enjoyed new places, restaurants had a boost in sales and everyone posted the engagement on social media. In roughly three weeks, the site has attracted more than 85,000 page views, the hashtag “BlackChicagoEats” has flooded Facebook newsfeeds, but the headline by FOX 32’s Good Day Chicago during the campaign said it all: “Black Chicago Eats is taking the city by storm.”
Initially, I was challenged by Anton Seals Jr. and Phillip Thomas to highlight Black-owned restaurants in Chicago after a list came out of New York. I was shocked to discover an incredible amount of Black-owned places to eat in the Chicago area.
I realized that many people did not know there are actually roughly 200 Black-owned eateries in the Chicagoland area. Today, it is the largest directory of Black-owned restaurants in Chicago that helps make it easier to “Buy Black” in Chicago.
Furthermore, to celebrate the diversity of Black-owned restaurant, cafes and dessert bars, I boldly declared July 29 through Aug. 12 as Black Chicago Eats Week and encouraged diners to support local businesses, especially those that give back and create sustainable jobs.
This continues the Buy Black, Give Black, Love Black campaign launched by myself and Cassiopeia Uhuru of The Black Mall, a national online directory of Black owned businesses and TeQuila Shabazz of BRIJ Embassy, two other chair members of Chicago’s Local Organizing Committee.
For two weeks, Black Chicago Eats Week offered people an opportunity to discover incredible Black-owned eateries. Chicagoans really embraced the idea by sharing hundreds of images, comments and conversations on social media.
A true grassroots experience, some participants organized “money mobs” at local restaurants. Afrika Porter of Afrika Enterprises organized one at Mad Tacos, a new, pork free, take out restaurant located 306 E. 75th St.
“When Brother Toure Muhammad first put up a list of Black-owned restaurants and eateries on BeanSoupTimes.com, I thought it was brilliant. When he launched Black Chicago Eats Week, I thought that was genius. As I’ve watched how we have collectively embraced the concept and participated in what I hope will become a national ideal, I thought, what a great and wonderful people we are! Thank you, Brother Toure!” wrote legendary radio personality Harold Lee Rush on Facebook.
Since the official launch, consumers have been exploring eateries throughout the city and surrounding suburbs and experiencing Black Chicago’s rich, culinary diversity.
“When 48% of our disposable income goes to food, there is no excuse as to why 100% of our restaurant dollars can’t go towards Black-owned businesses,” said Shabazz whose organization that, among other things, tracks Black spending habits. Shabazz encouraged a “money mob” at Salaam Restaurant located 706 E. 79th St. during Black Chicago Eats Week.
These restaurants, bakeries and eateries not only serve food, but equally as important, they provide jobs in our community and many give back in various ways.
One of the “pop ups” included attending a weekly event held by Turkey Chop 3506 W. Chicago Ave. where every Monday, from 1pm to 3pm, they serve free meals to the needy. August 1 marked their 75,000 free meal served.
Other community activists, social entrepreneurs and influencers who helped push Black Chicago Eats Week included Uhuru, Pierre Clark, La’Keisha Gray-Sewell, and blogger Deanna Burrell. They encouraged others to participate, dined and posted on social media.
I hoped that Black Chicagoans would embrace the idea, but I was pleasantly surprised when local television station and other media outlets also embraced the campaign. We kicked off Black Chicago Eats Week with an interview on WVON with Art “Chat Daddy” Sims, then an appearance on ABC’s “Windy City Live” hosted by Val Warner. Then FOX Chicago’s “Good Day Chicago” and WCIU’s You and Me with Jeanne Sparrow also brought me on the talk about Black restaurants.
Participation was simple. People were asked to visit the website, choose a restaurant to visit and post a pic with #BlackChicagoEats to help spread awareness about the restaurant.
Community members had so much fun they are encouraging the continued support of Black-owned eateries.
“I ate real well during Black Chicago Eats week which wrapped up August 12th but we must keep it going,” said Walidah Tureaud.
“I truly appreciate Toure Muhammad for promoting the neighbors institutions and campaigning to restore local economic activity,” said Jamal Julien, founder of Slow Roll Chicago, a bicycle riding initiative.
Places already expressing a boost in sales and more exposure due to Black Chicago Eats Week include Popup Dropoff, Brown Sugar Bakery, Mad Tacos, Peach’s Restaurant and more.