Food & Drink

How to Support the Black Community in Memphis Right Now

Here’s how you can help.

None of the music, food, and culture that Memphis is so renowned for would exist if it weren't for the Black community that gave rise to it. And right now, in the wake of the events surrounding the peaceful protests sparked by the murder of George Floyd, that community needs the support of all of Memphis.

"It's important to support Black business now more than ever because we are going through a global pandemic," says Cynthia Daniels, founder of Cynthia Daniel and Co. and creator of Memphis Black Restaurant Week and the Juneteenth Shop Black Virtual Experience, which will take place on June 19. "People who own brick-and-mortar stores have to close down or decrease their operations, while those that don't own a physical location no longer have access to trade shows and festivals to sell their products. Places like Target will be able to rebuild their stores without skipping a beat. Yet, other companies will not be able to sustain themselves if damaged by looting because they don't have the same resources."

You can support the Black businesses, restaurants, and nonprofits that make our city what it is in a variety of ways -- including donating money, volunteering your time to community efforts, and being deliberate about patronizing black establishments. Here are a few of the ways you can do your part.

Donate to nonprofits and community efforts

Memphis is a giving city and consistently ranked as one of the most generous places in the country. There's a multitude of nonprofits, social justice organizations, and community programs to support, including Black Lives Matter MemphisNAACP MemphisMemphis Artists for Change, National Civil Rights Museum, Juice Orange Mound, Historic Clayborn Temple, Memphis Black Arts Alliance, The CLTV (Collective), and so many more. 
Journalism plays a critical role in bringing awareness and drawing attention to where justice is needed. You can donate to MLK50: Justice Through Journalism.  It's a nonprofit newsroom dedicated to creating change and awareness to causes aligned with the views of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Getting yourself educated and fully understanding the history that shaped African-American history in the United States is essential. Visit The Wither’s Collection and Gallery that showcases the works of photojournalist Ernest C. Withers, who captured many significant moments during the Civil Rights Movement. There's close to 1.8 million of Withers images in archive, some available for viewing and purchase online. The Wither Collection and Gallery accepts donations and also has an array of books online available for purchase.

Support these black-owned restaurants

Feed your soul at the Four Way Grill Restaurant. Martin Luther King frequented it during the Civil Rights Movements. This soul food restaurant has been a staple in the Soulsville Neighborhood since 1946, a neighborhood that birthed sounds of Memphis soul music at Stax Records and Royal Studios. And you can't talk about Memphis's soul food without mentioning Alcenia's Restaurant, owned and operated in the Pinch District by B.J Chester-Tamayo since 1997. 

Snatch a rack of ribs from Payne's Bar-B-Que or Cozy Corner; they've spent over 40 years serving the best barbecue in the world's barbecue capital. If BBQ isn’t your thing, then head over to Chings Hot Wings and try another Memphis classic: their honey gold hot wings. 

Got a sweet tooth?  Check out Margie's 901 Homemade Ice Cream and Cakes, Suga Mama Snow Balls, Phillip Ashely Chocolates, and Makeda's Cookies

Capture the many flavors of Memphis by taking a food-tasting tour with Cristina McCarter. She's the owner of City Tasting Tours, which allows visitors and locals to experience a variety of Memphis restaurants. Looking for additional black restaurants to support, check out Edible Memphis Black-owned restaurants guide.

Patronize local Black-owned businesses

Gift yourself some artwork from the talented vibe curator and brand consultant Eso Tolson. He creates work rooted in affirmation, pride, and community.  Eso turned some of his most popular social media posts into works of art. He took his phrases like "Make Dope Stuff Every Day" and "Black History is American History" into wearable and shareable art.  

“Supporting black businesses goes beyond buying their products and paying for their services. We have to give them a fighting chance, share knowledge, resources, and provide access to loans and capital funding for their businesses. We have to reimagine how we think about black businesses and not treat them like a charity case. Support them beyond a month, beyond the trend, because Black Businesses Matter” said Eso Tolson. 

Signup for a subscription or advertise your business with The New Tri-State Defender newspaper. They have been serving the Memphis community since 1951, and supporting them ensures that black Memphians have a place where all their stories and experiences can be shared and heard. 

Purchase season tickets to Hattilo Theatre. It's currently celebrating its 15th season and is the only freestanding Black repertory theater in the five surrounding states near Memphis. Support other black theater and production companies LilyRoze Studios founded by Nadia Matthews and Princeton James Productions -- which not only produce plays but create spaces for black youth to be introduced to the arts. 

Commission videographer Jason Thibodeaux the owner of Millennium Media Label or photographer Ziggy Mack owner of Fomoloop Photography for your next event or creative project. Take A Tour of Possibilities with Carolyn Michael-Banks, who takes visitors and locals on a journey in Memphis showcasing the city’s African-American History. 

Finally, here's a list of more Black businesses to support created by the Downtown Memphis Commission, as well as more resources from Love Memphis Buy Memphis and Mid-South Minority Business Council Continuum

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Milton Howery III, aka “Milton Memphis,” is a writer, publicist, creative, music entertainment professional, and a Memphis native. Follow him on Instagram.