How to Support the Black Community in Memphis Right Now

From nonprofits and community organizations to restaurants and bookstores.

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 a global pandemic that has no end in sight to the continued racial inequalities in the United States, the Black community needs the support of all 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 Juneteenth Shop Black Virtual Experience. “While the numbers are much higher than they were six months ago, it is still hard for Black businesses, they have to rely on grants and loans. But now more than ever, the community is trying to rally around the ones choosing to stick through the pandemic and support them as much as we can.”

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.

National Civil Rights Museum at the The Lorraine Motel
National Civil Rights Museum at the The Lorraine Motel | Michael Gordon/Shutterstock

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), Memphis Slim Collaboratory, 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.

City Tasting Box
City Tasting Box

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, and City Tasting Box, 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,” says 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. Support the Collage Dance Collective, one of the largest black-owned dance schools in the south that increases professional ballet access and diversity.

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, support organizations like Black Business Association of MemphisLove Memphis Buy Memphis, and Mid-South Minority Business Council Continuum that provide support and access to black owned businesses.

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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.