So many thoughts as I reflect on 2015. It was a time of heartbreak for me and many very dear to me. This year took a friend’s son, paralyzed another, a friend’s brother, my last two grandparents, and a friend…
I know everyone praises Atlanta and D.C. for being Black Meccas, but there are some gems for us in the smaller pockets of America as well. And, I plan to highlight them in a series of monthly posts that list ten Black-owned or “Black-friendly” businesses in a plethora of cities across the country. These lists will be places that will likely not call the police on Black patrons as a personal concierge service when our very presence becomes a nuisance.
The necessity for such a list has been ever-present, but there was a period immediately post the modern Civil Rights Movement where we were lulled into believing that we had been afforded the same inalienable rights of every other “American,” dismissing the fact that we, Black and Brown persons, have never been considered “American” by America. Therefore, we have always needed to create, develop, and support our own economic infrastructure and network in order to navigate safely through this still foreign land. “The Negro Motorist Green Book” was originally published by Victor Hugo Green in 1936 to serve as an annual guide for Black travelers to be aware of the “variety of dangers and inconveniences along the road, from refusal of food and lodging to arbitrary arrest. In response, Green wrote his guide of services and places relatively friendly to African-Americans…”
The Back to Black Red, Black, & Green Lists will serve the same purpose. We will highlight Black-owned businesses and note them in black. “Black-friendly” businesses will be noted in green, and businesses that do not recognize or respect our humanity will be identified in the color red.
This past weekend, I was able to visit my state’s capital for my niece’s collegiate graduation from Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University. I was only there for a day and a half, but Tallahassee owes me nothing! In fact, I think I’m the one who’s in debt. With Andrew Gillum, a FAMU graduate, currently serving as the mayor and actively running to serve as the first Black governor in the Sunshine State’s history, Tallahassee is one of those often overlooked and unexpected cities that offers some very pleasant Back to Black List approved establishments.
Many know that my family and I strive to build and support Black-owned businesses and ventures in order to help establish a strong Black economic base. (That’s the only way to have a seat at any table, including the one we build ourselves.) Every where we travel, we seek a reflection of ourselves and find ways to support it. It’s a part of executing the Back to Black List (B2B List), and simply just a part of who we are. Visiting our former home of Florida’s capital city was no different.
Though it was disheartening to see how gentrification has so craftily and knavishly encroached upon one of the oldest, historically Black neighborhoods in the state of Florida, Frenchtown, by purchasing the land around and within it and donating it to the expansion of the city’s PWI, there is also still a foundation for a thriving Black community. If you ever find yourself traveling through the canopy-covered, quaint, and hilly trails of Tallahassee, Florida, these are a few of the Black-owned spots and vendors you should visit:
1. Nefetari’s Fine Cuisine & Spirits: You will not find a better place for fine dining than this ornately furnished, African-inspired, vegan-friendly, but carnivore-pleasing restaurant. More than an eatery, it’s a cultural arts center and the hub for the Black arts movement in Tallahassee. You are greeted at the door with a warm smile and beautiful artifacts from around the world that gleam of ancient tales of royal African dynasties. Before you are seated, you can browse through the on-site bookstore and shop, Amen Ra’s, but the delectable and varied menu options, large portions, superb customer service, and value are really the highlights of your dining experience. The owners, Drs. Dana and Sharon Dennard, are staples and serve as a patriarch and matriarch of the transient and native Black community. They are also serial entrepreneurs having owned an internet café, an African-centered private school, one of two Black-owned bookstores in the city, and it’s rumored that more ventures are actually in the works. If you feel like splurging and treating yourself to a truly regal affair, swing for the “Queen’s Table” centered in the dining area where you will be served like the kings and queens you are. Visit their site for more details about their menu options and upcoming events.
Nefetari’s Fine Cuisine & Spirits 312 S. Macomb St., Tallahassee, FL , (850) 210-0548
2. Black on Black Rhyme Tallahassee: If you happen to be staying in Tallahassee on any given Tuesday night, venture over to the enclave for entertainment, spoken word, live music, and cultural performing arts. This collective of performers was founded by Keith Rodgers more than two decades ago to combat the negative stereotypes associated with the Black community-at-large by using our artistry to uplift our community. Hosted at Nefetari’s Fine Cuisine & Spirits every Tuesday from 8 p.m.- 11 p.m., it will be the best $10 you’ve ever invested in your cultural awakening.
Black on Black Rhyme , Tuesdays, 8pm-11pm , 812. S. Macomb St.
3. The FAMU Bookstore: Not only does the on-campus bookstore offer a selection of textbooks for its students, you can also peruse a selection of fiction and non-fiction novels, biographies, and anthologies about the Black experience including current bestsellers like “You Can’t Touch My Hair,” by Phoebe Robinson, or classics by Toni Morrison like “Sula” and “Beloved,” as it is currently only one of two Black-owned bookstores in the city. (It is partially owned by Barnes & Noble, but much of the proceeds benefit FAMU as well.) After adding to your library, you can purchase paraphernalia of one of the top universities in the country, THE Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University as it is monikered by its alumni, to support your love of HBCUs and higher learning. If you’re part of the Divine 9, you will soon be able to purchase all of your Greek tees, umbrellas, and merchandise to represent your organization. And, if you’re a card-carrying member of the FAMU Alumni Association, you’ll appreciate the discount offered on all merchandise.
FAMU Bookstore, 601 Gamble St., Tallahassee, Fl , (850) 412-7156
4. Mandisa Ngozi Braiding Hair Salon: Wherever you travel, you should have a place that you can visit to beautify your coif. Mandisa Ngozi Braiding Hair Salon is the epicenter for natural hair care, not only in Tallahassee, but in the state of Florida. Owned and operated by sister stylists, Valencia and Denise Jones, Mandisa Ngozi is the first, trailblazing natural hair care gallery and salon in the entire state. Offering everything from faux locs to brow shaping to the care and styling of all natural hair, this family affair grants its visitors a naturally beautifying experience.
Mandisa Ngozi Braiding Hair Salon, 1908 Miccosukee Rd., Tallahassee,FL, 850-561-0330
5. SitiArt: After your mane has been maintained, saunter over to SitiArt’s BeautyStudio to have your face slayed to the gawds!! Licensed esthetician and luxury make-up artist, Siteria Gregory, will have your skin glowing and looking like you’re ready to grace the covers of Essence or Vogue. In my recent visit to Tallahassee, I was fortunate enough to secure one of her rarely available appointments, and I left looking like a new woman. (No, seriously, my husband almost didn’t recognize me.) The luxurious setting of metallic, boldly-striped walls, glamorous pop art, and opulent and extravagant mirrors makes you feel like you’re stepping into your own lavish personal facial spa. The artist’s joyful spirit leaps off of the walls and dances in every corner of her majestic space. Go get your slay face, or send your man to be treated to a gentleman’s facial, and thank me later Black Girls! SitiART Beauty Studio, 541 E. Tennessee St., Ste 124, (904) 458-7484
(The pictures above are some of the unprofessional, behind-the-scenes shots of my slay face from my boudoir photo shoot.)
6. Tellis Rodgers Photography: If you’re visiting Tallahassee, it may be for a special occasion like a graduation or for FAMU or FSU homecoming. It may be just to enjoy the charming nature of the rapidly developing, and scenic city. Whatever the reason, whether you’re a resident or passing through, if you want to document your time there with professional, individual, family, or group pictures as we did this past weekend, then Tellis Rodgers Photography is the vendor of choice. His service is prompt, professional, and reasonably priced. We were able to get our annual family pictures at our illustrious university this past weekend. (See below for a preview.) Tellis Rodgers Photography (850) 322-23697
7. Soul Vegetarian Restaurant: “Soul Veg,” as it’s affectionately called by frequenters, specializes in vegetarian soul food. As a recent veganish convert, I seek restaurants that can cater to my newly adopted lifestyle that are also still appealing to anyone. (Myth dispeller: You don’t have to be vegan to eat vegan.) Sandwiched between the Florida State Capitol and FAMU, the small café is primarily for small, to-go orders, though there is limited seating. Everything we’ve had there was delicious and made-to-order (so, you must be patient), but the cinnamon roll and fresh smoothies and juices were the best treats. Soul Vegetarian Restaurant, 1205 S Adams St, Tallahassee, FL
8. O’Leans Café: If you’re looking for traditional, southern, soul food and homestyle cooking for breakfast and lunch, look no further. Eating at O’Lean’s Café is like visiting the kitchen of the great aunt that is known for her greens and mac & cheese. This modest eatery is a charmingly preserved relic at the base of FAMU, literally right across the street from its main entrance, where you can get heaping servings of fried chicken and waffles, grits, and bacon for breakfast or catfish, pork chops, and greens for lunch served in a cafeteria-styled setting. The prices make it very tempting to eat now and order more for later.
Olean’s Cafe, 1605 S. Adams St., Tallahassee, FL 850-521-0259
9. Brownsville Preparatory Institute: If you’re a resident of Florida’s capital city, and you have children who are in Pre-K through first grade, then there is an extraordinary educational opportunity available at your doorstep. Brownsville Preparatory Institute (BPI) has a fifteen year history of educating young scholars to thrive academically, socially, and culturally. With two campuses, and a third in progress, the expanding school is the current cradle for formative education in the city. Toddlers are reading and reciting poetry in public performances. Students are mastering math and science far beyond their grade levels. If I lived in Tallahassee, I would no longer need to homeschool my son because I could trust him in the hands of Rita Brown and Patrick Charles, BPI’s founder and director of admissions. For more, view their promotional video.
Brownsville Preparatory Institute, 1401 Old Bainbridge Rd. Tallahassee, Fl 850- 412-9390
10. Tallahassee Nights Live: Created by musician and producer, Darius “Doc D” Baker, this traveling entourage of talented virtuosos showcases a splendid zoetic performance featuring live music, comedy, and spoken word at least six noted times a year in Tallahassee, when it’s not touring the rest of the country. The location shifts and most of the events are themed, like the MLK production where guests are asked to come adorned in their regal African attire, but all of them are upscale and entertaining. If you’re in Tallahassee on the Sunday of any school’s graduation or homecoming weekend, MLK weekend, or Valentine’s Day weekend, be sure to secure a seat for this dynamic showcase. Prices range from $30-$50. Tallahassee Nights Live
All of the aforementioned businesses and events on this list are Black-owned or “Black-friendly” and B2B List approved. They are not, however, represented by Black Girl Speaks, nor do they comprise a complete listing of such enterprises in this area. If you know of more businesses or events that are either Black-owned or “Black-friendly” that should be highlighted in the city referenced, then please email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.