It’s festival season in Central Arkansas (we wrote a little about this last week), and by now you’re probably marking up your calendar to make sure you don’t miss any of your favorites. But there’s one coming up this weekend that you might have overlooked. On Saturday, The Arkansas Association of Black Professionals (AABP) and Philander Smith College are hosting the second annual Black Food Festival. It’s a celebration of food culture, yes, but equally a recognition of the hard work that black business owners have put in to succeed.
“Last year, a group of people saw that we had a lot of young and some established entrepreneurs who were coming into the food truck business,” said Rhonna Wade, board member of AABP. “We wanted to show the power of black entrepreneurship in the state. There ended up being a lot of black food truck owners in the state.”
All of the food vendors at the festival Saturday are food truck owners that you can regularly find around the city. But even though they all work out of food trucks, don’t expect their food to all look the same. These trucks serve up a variety of dishes, from soul food to barbecue, from Cajun to desserts.
“It’s hard for someone to categorize what is black food,” said Wade. “It’s deeper than one kind of cuisine. We’re telling our community that black food encompasses a lot. There’s some Southern, but there’s also vegan and vegetarian. You can’t just put a label on it. It ends up being amazing to see the difference in the kind of cuisines.”
In our series on black-owned businesses earlier this year, we explored how many of them face certain challenges that most white businesses never experience. Whether it’s greater difficulty acquiring financing, having a smaller likely customer base or overt racism, it usually takes more for a black-owned business to succeed. Wade says she hopes this festival serves as an encouragement for those entrepreneurs.
“The really cool thing is that we have some who are kind of newer, and we have some who have been in the game for a while,” said Wade. “What it does is allow them to see each other, we’ve had them talk to each other, give tips and things like that. It’s a very collaborative atmosphere. I’m hoping that if anybody is interested in opening a business, letting them see that it’s possible will be a big boost.”
In addition to the lift in morale, the Black Food Festival also gives all food lovers a chance to support businesses they might not usually visit. The festival goes from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. at Philander Smith College near downtown Little Rock. Admission is free. In addition to the food trucks, there will be craft and boutique vendors, as well as nonprofit organizations sharing their work. Here’s a list of some of the food truck vendors:
- Haygood BBQ
- Jefferson Mobile Grilling
- Brown Sugar Bakeshop
- Bragg’s Big Bites
- B Chill Lemonade
- Seafood Junkies
- Kool’s BBQ
- Sweet Kay’s Treats
- Philly Phresh Water Ice
- Natural Flavors