By Lenore T. Adkins, Special to the AFRO
Northeast Eats, a tasting that’ll amplify food and drink companies in the Northeast quadrant of the District on June 1, has booked eight Black-owned businesses this year, and hopes to add five more before the week is out.
That would bring the total number of participating Black-owned businesses to 12, the most in the event’s four-year history, says Brian Becker, the festival’s founder and organizer.
The eight confirmed Black-owned businesses are: Ruby Scoops, Mondiale Dressing Co., Sweet Mossie’s stew pot spot, Exotic Chef, Yoco Confections, District Chop, RunVeggie and SweetKiwi yogurt company.
The event runs from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m., and brings more than 40 food vendors and 10 breweries and distilleries under one roof to D.C. Brau, 3178 Bladensburg Rd. NE. More than 400 people are expected to attend, giving participating businesses crucial visibility.
Northeast Eats also partnered with BLCKNLIT, a Black-owned organization curating Black events and experiences, to hold a ticket giveaway on their behalf. Becker also teamed up with DMV Black Restaurant Week to help promote the tasting — they will have a table at the event.
Becker says if the tasting didn’t include Black vendors, then he would have failed to put on an inclusive event that represents the city.
“There are some very obvious disparities and there’s some obvious tension and yet I think about my life and what makes me love living in the city is… it’s such a diverse place,” said Becker, who is White. “If we just stick to the people that I know, it’s not going to be representative. So let’s get to work.”
Ruby Scoops owner, Rabia Kamara, has been involved with the tasting since its inception, and serves on its board as secretary. Her duties include helping secure vendors for the event.
She’s delighted to see Black-owned businesses jumping in because, even though Blacks comprise 47.1 percent of the city, according to the U.S. Census, their businesses aren’t spotlighted enough in D.C., in her view.
Taking part in the tasting not only gives Black entrepreneurs exposure, but it also allows other people of color to see them doing their thing, she told the AFRO.
“So me being me, I was like, ‘Hey other Black people come do this thing,’” Kamara said. “I want to make sure we don’t get lost in the sauce of the gentrification.”
Organizers hope to spread the wealth across the city by taking future tastings to other quadrants, including Southeast, which encompasses Wards 7 and 8.
“I feel like we need to open up to everybody,” Kamara says.
Northeast Eats has been around for four years — the first three years, it acted as a fundraiser for Washington Jesuit Academy, a Catholic middle school in Northeast for low-income boys. Becker worked in various positions there, including acting headmaster and director of leadership giving, and told the AFRO the event raised a total of $50,000 over the last three years.
Becker left the school in June 2018, so for the first time this year, all of the tasting’s proceeds are going back to the vendors to cover staffing and product costs they incur for participating in the tasting.
Vendors get $100 for posting their involvement on social media, another $100 if they sell 10 tickets with a discount code, and another $100 after Becker covers all of the events costs.
“Everybody wins when we get 300 tickets sold and everyone wins again when we hit 400,” Becker says, adding that hitting both of those benchmarks generates another $200 for vendors.
Tickets cover all food and drinks and cost $50 or $20 for people under 21.
Other vendors on tap at Northeast Eats include Toki Underground, Wunder Garten, Brookland’s Finest, Sloppy Mamas, One Eight Distilling, D.C. Brau, MGM Roast Beef, and Masala Story.