Taste the Diaspora Detroit kicked off Feb. 1 with a special dish at Breadless, a Black-owned sandwich shop off Jefferson.
Meet the Black Bottom Chicken: Blackened chicken served with collard greens, black-eyed pea hummus, barbeque aioli, and vegetables, served as either a sandwich or bowl. The special dish is one of several features for this year’s month-long event to recognize the food, culture and contributions of people of the African diaspora.
This year, the annual initiative focuses on the role of food in the fight for Black liberation through multiple lenses.
“We are going to speak about it through the lens of holding onto culture through food,” said Jermond Booze, a co-founder of Taste the Diaspora, a chef, and a classroom facilitator for Detroit Food Academy. “Through the diaspora we lost a lot of our culture.”
The event also will highlight the historical role of food as resistance, by honoring Black leaders like Georgia Gilmore, a cafeteria worker who fed civil rights workers and supported the movement, and the Black Panther Party, whose free breakfast program for kids was a cornerstone of its work.
Present day, the use of food to advance social justice for Black Detroiters is alive and well with initiatives like the Detroit Black Farmer Land Fund, which helps Black farmers purchase land and the Detroit People’s Food Co-op and The Neighborhood Grocery, two anticipated Black-led grocery stores that seek to increase food access and support Black businesses.
The founder of The Neighborhood Grocery, Raphael Wright, co-founded Taste the Diaspora alongside Booze, and Ederique Goudia, a chef and founder of In the Business of Food.
The event started in 2021 as a way to address Detroit’s worsening food insecurity rates, and help out Black food businesses that suffered during the pandemic, Goudia said.
“We were trying to figure out, how do we do our part in helping our community and helping those Black-owned food businesses to bring in some additional income, but also find a way to highlight the contributions of African Americans to the American political landscape,” she told BridgeDetroit.
So, the co-founders created shoebox lunches to sell, and used the profits to support Black food businesses. The shoebox lunches are a reference to the Jim Crow era, when Black travelers would pack lunches in shoeboxes for long trips to avoid conflict or danger while traveling across the country. In 2021, Taste the Diaspora’s lunch boxes sold out within the first week.
Throughout the month, Taste the Diaspora will donate more than 400 shoebox lunches to food insecure families, host food pop-ups and cooking demonstrations, and offer other collaborations for the community to participate in. On Feb. 19, Booze will host a five-course dinner inspired by a J Dilla album. First up for the dinner is brussel sprouts made three ways, inspired by Dilla’s song, Gobstopper.
“I wanted to use brussels in three ways to emulate how he would chop up music,” said Booze.
The programming will culminate at Freya with a celebration featuring Black Detroit artists, a DJ, cocktails, and shoebox lunches for $40. The profits from the lunches will be donated to a Hospitality Included program that provides opportunities and training for Black young adults interested in joining the hospitality industry.
To check out a full schedule of the events, head to Taste the Diaspora’s website or social media.