The repeated and compound impact of structural racism on Detroit’s food system couldn’t be more obvious than the need for a Black Farmer Land Fund, a Black Restaurant Week, and crowd-funding efforts for Black-owned grocery stores in the Blackest city in the US. These are just a few recent concerted efforts to change the status quo, but its important to note that this is NOT everything that is Black-owned in Detroit’s food system. The additional gray dots are food businesses catalogued by The Black Bottom Archives (add any missing businesses to their directory).
The Black Farmer Land Fund launched to address the racial disparity of land access in urban agriculture in Detroit. The cumbersome process of working with the Land Bank was limiting the number of Black participants that could access land for agricultural uses. D-Town Farm run by the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network (DBCFSN) and Oakland Avenue Urban Farm are the two best known Black-owned urban agriculture operations.
Detroit Black Restaurant Week launched in 2017 and the founder, Kwaku Osei-Bonsu, received racist diatribes and death threats. The week featuring Black restaurants is now in it’s 6th year with 30 participating restaurants. COVID-19 has hit Black-owned restaurants hard with both ima and Detroit Vegan Soul closing one of their two locations, The Block closing permanently, and others struggling to hold on.
The last Black-owned grocery store in Detroit closed in 2014. James Hooks ran Metro Foodland on Grand River Ave. right up until a Meijer Superstore became his neighbor. The financial case for opening a grocery store is tough, but trying to convince a lender to invest in a Black-owned business seems even harder. Two current Black-owned grocery store efforts are relying on memberships and crowdsourcing to finance the opening. The Detroit Food Commons and the Detroit People’s Food Co-op closed on their land deal and are moving forward. The Neighborhood Grocery has secured a small store building and nearby land to grow produce.