Time to Eat: Black-owned businesses and food from the African diaspora are the focus of a unique festival
Hosted by and benefiting FIU Hospitality, the Black Pepper Food & Wine Festival aims to pump money back into the black इकॉनमी businesses.
When his catering business dried up during the pandemic, Ricardo Vincent had to make a big decision: turn around to survive or wait. That’s when he and some of his business partners decided to open a food truck.
In March 2020, Taco Negro was born. The enticing aromas of perfectly seasoned chicken tacos, pulled beef and cheese, shrimp Po boys and barbeque mac and cheese waft from the truck, as well as the pride of being a black-owned business owner.
“After the pandemic, nobody ate inside,” Vincent said. So he decided to bring food to the people. Why Taco Negro? “Because believe it or not, there aren’t many black owners who run a taco truck.”
Taco Negro is just one of more than 40 black-owned restaurants and food trucks participating in this year’s 2nd annual Black Pepper Food & Wine Festival, hosted by the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau Black Hospitality Initiative. The festival is hosted by FIU’s Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management and benefits the school’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I) efforts. The 2nd year of the festival is scheduled for Saturday, August 13 from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Biscayne Bay Campus in North Miami, Florida.
25 FIU students are helping the organizers of the event. FIU-affiliated businesses participating in the festival include Tropical Oasis Express, The Trap 954, Slight Peppa by Chef Ari, Oli’s Bakeshop, Rita’s Italian Ice and Pound for Pound Cakes.
In addition to restaurateurs and black-owned businesses located from Miami to West Palm Beach, the festival will include live chef demonstrations, mixology demonstrations and live music.
“What better time to celebrate our restaurants than during Black Business Month? This allows us to be very targeted in circulating the black dollar and creating awareness of these amazing restaurants that we have throughout South Florida,” said Alexis Brown, festival co-founder and owner of SocialXchange, Inc. focuses on Black-owned business. Together with their business partner, Joel Brown, the two have focused their company on providing a sense of community for urban millennials and professionals by curating innovative social services, community service and travel.
“The narrative is that there aren’t many black-owned businesses here in South Florida, and that couldn’t be further from the truth.”
August is Black Business Month, when the public is encouraged to recognize and support black-owned businesses across the United States. The month was launched back in August 2004 to drive the political agenda affecting the then 2.6 million African-American businesses in the US and to share and celebrate America’s diversity and equity. According to Miami-Dade County, it ranks 5th in the nation for the largest number of black-owned employer businesses. In Miami-Dade, Brown says 17% of businesses are black-owned, and in Broward that number is double, at 34%.
However, black business owners face challenges. According to an October 2020 McKinsey study, only five percent of blacks own equity in a U.S. business. Other research shows that black entrepreneurs have an even harder time accessing the capital needed to start a business or the marketing dollars to promote it.
“Creating equity in the U.S. means not only social stability, but also economic stability,” said Brian Barker, DEI Chaplin School Professor and the first Endowed Hospitality Professor of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in the U.S. The Chaplin School graduates the most black and Hispanic students than any other. other hospitality school in the country.
Barker recently launched a bold, intentional initiative called the Alliance for Hospitality Equity & Diversity, or AHED, to create a statewide infrastructure for talented but underrepresented black and Hispanic students to create a pathway to hospitality management degrees and C-suite leadership.
“The only way to create generational wealth and create equity in the community is to take an intentional approach and this festival is a phenomenal way to pump money back into the black economy,” Barker concluded.
For Taco Negro owner Vincent, this will be his first time participating in the Black Pepper Food & Wine Festival. He’s excited and agrees: “It’s all about supporting each other.”