It’s Thursday night and Suya Joint is hopping. The Dudley Square West African restaurant smells amazing and sounds like a party. A DJ queues up The Whispers as groups of friends, couples young and old, and families with little kids share plates of jollof rice, meat pies, and other specialties.
This is the kickoff party for the Boston Black Restaurant Challenge, an event that asks diners to visit four black-owned restaurants during the month of February — Black History Month. It is sponsored by state Representative Chynah Tyler along with local organizations Bringing Back Boston, Go Get It Enterprises, Outside the Box Agency, and Urban Affairs Group.
The goal is twofold, says Tyler: “to drive the economic boom to local, black-owned businesses by having residents spend their dining dollars there, and also to showcase the opportunities that are available in the community” — places like Ali’s Roti in Mattapan, Blue Nile in Jamaica Plain, Mida in the South End, and Next Step Soul Food Cafe in Dorchester. (For a list, see the event website below.) After visiting these restaurants, participants can post photos from their meals on social media, using the hashtag #BostonBlackRestaurantChallenge.
Chantei Alves of Roslindale is among the customers arriving at Suya Joint. What drew her to the Boston Black Restaurant Challenge? “It brings attention to restaurants I’ve never heard of and would love to support,” she says.
Organizers were inspired by Baltimore’s Black Restaurant Challenge, says Urban Affairs’ Rufus Faulk, a candidate last year for City Council. Similar events have taken place in San Francisco and Portland, Ore.; cities including Atlanta, Charlotte, Detroit, and Houston have hosted Black Restaurant Weeks.
“This is trying to close the economic gap that exists now,” Faulk says. “So we’re here trying to celebrate business, celebrate our culture, celebrate our people, and get them to do so by making sure we’re intentional about how we spend our dollars.”
For more information, go tobostonblackrestaurantchallenge.weebly.comDevra First can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @devrafirst.