Ricardo Vincent had to make a big decision when his catering business dried up during the pandemic: pivot to survive or wait it out. That’s when he and some of his business partners decided to open up a food truck.
In March of 2020, Taco Negro was born. The tempting smell of perfectly spiced jerk chicken tacos, shredded beef and cheese, Po boy shrimp and barbeque mac and cheese emanate from the truck, and so does the pride of being a Black business owner.
“Post pandemic, no one was doing indoor dining,” Vincent said. So, he decided to bring the food to the people. Why Taco Negro? “Because believe it or not, there are not a lot of Black owners operating a taco truck.”
Taco Negro is just one of the more than 40 Black-owned restaurants and food trucks participating in this year’s 2nd annual Black Pepper Food & Wine Festival presented by the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau Black Hospitality Initiative. The festival is hosted by FIU's Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management and benefits the school’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I) efforts. The 2nd annual festival is scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 13 from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Biscayne Bay Campus in North Miami, Florida.
25 FIU students are helping the organizers run the event. FIU-affiliated businesses participating in the festival include Tropical Oasis Express, The Trap 954, Slight Peppa by Chef Ari, Oli’s Bakeshop, Rita’s Italian Ice and Pound for Pound Cakes.
In addition to restaurateurs and black businesses located in Miami to West Palm Beach, the festival will include live chef demonstrations, mixology demonstrations and live music.
“What a better time to celebrate our restaurants than during Black Business Month? This allows us to be very intentional about circulating the black dollar and to create awareness for these amazing restaurants that we have throughout South Florida,” said Alexis Brown, co-founder of the festival and owner of SocialXchange, Inc., an event company that focuses on Black-owned business. Together with her business partner, Joel Brown, the two have focused their company on providing a sense of community for urban millennials and professionals by curating innovative social, community service and travel experiences.
“The narrative is that there’s not a lot of black-owned businesses here in South Florida, and that couldn’t be further from the truth.”
SUPPORTING THE BLACK ECONOMY
August is Black Business Month, when the public is encouraged to appreciate and support Black-owned businesses across the United States. The month was started back in August of 2004 to drive the policy agenda affecting the then 2.6 million African-American businesses in the U.S. and share and celebrate America’s diversity and equity. According to Miami-Dade County, it is ranked 5th in the nation for the largest number of Black-owned employer businesses. In Miami-Dade, Brown says 17% of businesses are Black-owned and in Broward, the number is double, 34%.
But Black business owners face challenges. According to an October 2020 McKinsey study, only five percent of Black Americans own equity in a business in the U.S. Other research shows that Black entrepreneurs have an even harder time accessing the capital needed to start a business or the marketing dollars to promote it.
“Creating equity in the U.S. means not only social but economic stability,” said Brian Barker, Chaplin School DEI professor and the first endowed hospitality professor of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion in the U.S. The Chaplin School graduates the most Black and Hispanic students than any other hospitality school in the country.
Barker recently launched a bold, intentional initiative called the Alliance for Hospitality Equity & Diversity or AHED to create a nationwide infrastructure for talented, yet underrepresented Black and Hispanic students to create a pathway toward hospitality management degrees and leadership in the C-suite.
“The only way to create generational wealth and create equity in the community is to take an intentional approach and this festival is a phenomenal way to pump money back into the Black economy,” Barker concluded.
For Taco Negro business owner Vincent, it will be his first time participating in the Black Pepper Food & Wine Festival. He’s excited and agrees, “It’s all about supporting each other.”For tickets to the Black Pepper Wine & Food Festival, visit blackpepperfoodfest.com and to learn more about DEI efforts, visit hospitality.fiu.edu. The event is free and open to the public, but RSVPs are requested.