Hundreds of people flocked to southwest Charlotte on Friday to enjoy food from local black vendors.
Black Food Truck Fridays was launched in 2017 by the Charlotte black business owners, a nonprofit organization that supports local black businesses. Each week, salespeople are stationed at the Sonesta Charlotte. For Juneteenth, the holiday celebrating the emancipation of enslaved people in the United States, some vendors decorated Juneteenth clothes and others offered special discounts.
BBOC Founder and CEO Cathay Dawkins said the Spirit of Black Food Truck Fridays celebrates June 17 throughout the year with the event focused on creating economic impact within communities black.
“It’s about economic freedom, it’s about being able to provide for yourself, your family and your business,” Dawkins said. “Each year it gives us the opportunity to stop, reflect and really bring resources to our community.”
According to Dawkins, each Black Food Truck Friday event generates $ 150,000 in revenue, which includes donations to BBOC and the amount attendees spend at vendors.
Celebrity chef Carla Hall attended the event on Friday. She said she appreciated the way the event provides easy access for black vendors.
“Black Food Truck Friday is like Whole Foods and you know they’ve curated all the brands for you,” Hall said. “You don’t have to do your homework if you want to support small businesses.”
Forty-five vendors attended the event, including island boys, a food truck that serves artisan sandwiches. Owner Joseph Brewster, who has attended the event since its launch in 2017, said he’s thrilled people can buy great food from black businesses.
“We love that Black Food Truck Fridays has given us the chance to give back and show what we can do as cooks,” he said.
LaToya Hodge has been participating in Black Food Truck Fridays since 2019. Her food truck, 50 nuances of flavor, serves gourmet desserts. Hodge said she appreciated the event for the location and the support it provides to local vendors.
“Especially at this time during the pandemic, it’s hard to find places with things still closed,” Hodge said. “[Black Food Truck Fridays] gives us the opportunity to go out and serve the public and be able to present our articles.
Sylvia Hickland’s food truck, Anna’s Kitchen, serves traditional food, such as chicken, macaroni and cheese, and sweet potatoes. His business has seen its revenue increase since attending the event.
“It was a pleasure to be here to see people come together and eat food, and my business is growing because COVID has lifted and the Black Food Truck Fridays,” Hickland said.
Many vendors have also been able to launch storefront stores since they started participating in Black Food Truck Fridays.
Sonya Spencer will open the Urban Reader Library July 1. Spencer became a salesperson with Black Food Truck Fridays this year, although she has been a member of BBOC since 2019 and currently serves on the Community Advisory Board.
For Spencer, events like the Black Food Truck Fridays are important because they highlight Black history and culture.
“One thing I love about Black Food Truck Fridays is that everyone comes out,” Spencer said. “No matter what your race, they go out, they love the food, and they love the vendors.”
Black Food Truck Fridays was relaunched in March after the event was halted last year due to COVID-19. Past events this year have included COVID-19 vaccination clinics to vaccinate the inhabitants of the city.
Aware of the COVID-19 pandemic, Black Food Truck Fridays has also extended its hours from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. in order to reduce the number of people who attended the event at the same time.
Black Food Truck Fridays has seen rapid success in part because few other cities have cohesive events dedicated to black communities, Dawkins said. Dawkins estimates that 25 to 35% of customers are from out of state.
From June 25, the Black Food Truck Fridays become national. Each month, the event will visit different cities across the country, starting with a stop in Columbia, South Carolina. When visiting different cities, there will always be an event every Friday in Charlotte.
This Tuesday, BBOC is also organizing a special evening Black Food Truck Tuesday Charity Event as part of Dine Out For Kids, a fundraiser for the charity Communities In Schools of Charlotte Mecklenburg.
For Dawkins, it’s important to create a habit of patronizing black businesses and directing resources to black communities.
“Be intentional in your support for black businesses,” Dawkins said.