Eat Black, Stay Safe: eatOkra App

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The re-emergence of racist and sometimes violent encounters between Black customers and restaurant workers motivated a military veteran to create an app for safe eating spaces and experiences.

After his military service, Anthony Edwards returned to the United States and was struck by a couple of things. Against the backdrop of escalating racial strife in America, he noticed that there was no immediate access to an index of the nation’s Black-owned restaurants. “The question I asked myself was not only ‘where do we eat,’ but ‘where do we eat safely’,” says Edwards.

The solution was to build a smartphone application, except the endeavor took on a life of its own with every restaurant brought to his attention. “We started counting the number of Black and Diaspora restaurants in our neighborhood. There were a lot more than we anticipated, with even more opening.” The discovery led Edwards and his fiancé, Janique Bradley, to not only explore the other boroughs in their area, but to delve deeper into historically Black neighborhoods like Harlem in New York.

Anthony Edwards and Janique Bradley

The partners created a business model for the application, and along with a third associate, Justin Johnson, they are executing their vision: eatOkra.

The first iteration of eatOkra was released in 2016, with a debugged relaunch in 2017. The pair chose to include okra in the title of the app because of the vegetable’s history. As a crop brought over with enslaved Africans, okra gives a nod to its inclusion in many African Diasporic food recipes. To date, eatOkra has 800-plus restaurants, coffee houses, and food-related events – such as pop-ups and food trucks – in its growing database.

Edwards, Bradley and Johnson manually entered the names and addresses of most restaurants on the app, while a handful of their users also contributed.

Right now, the majority of the Black-owned restaurants that users can access are located in major cities throughout 15 states in the U.S., including the District of Columbia. They also rely heavily on user-feedback in an effort to continually advance the app.

eatOkra is solely funded by the partners, but their business model includes paid options as well as a more advanced web-based application in the near future. For now, Edwards is enjoying the organic growth in users. With the recent increase of restaurant-related discrimination as seen with the Starbucks and Waffle House events, Edwards believes that the surge signals something worth noting.

“People want to experience community again, especially as it pertains to food. The app helps in locating those communities as they travel or simply desire to enjoy a meal without profiling and strife. It also means increased support of Black-owned businesses.”

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Robin Caldwell is a food publicist who has a passion for black women chefs and the plate economy.

1 Comment

  1. We need the Green Book back. We need a directory book of every black owned business in every major city in America and patronize those businesses as much as possible. We need to keep as much money in our community as we can. Also we need to rid our neighborhoods of these young black knuckleheads that are doing nothing but creating mayhem in our community. Lawless Black Knuckleheads are more poisonous and more dangerous to the black community than anything. They are more anti black and hate filled against their own than any Klansmen or racist white cop could ever dream of being. They’re responsible for the lion’s share of violence taking place in our neighborhoods. We need to stop making excuses for them and trying to analyze and rationalize why they do what they do because we’ve admired this tragic comedy show long enough, it’s over. They got to go and that’s that, argument done. We need them off our streets permanently and in jail cells for life where they belong. I don’t believe in 2nd chances or any type of rehabilitation for harden violent criminals who’s only mission in life is to rob, steal, and kill. What’s the point of opening and expanding black owned businesses if young black knuckleheads are doing nothing but robbing and stealing from those businesses and then hiding under the morally rancid and. repugnant safety net of a NO SNITCH CODE. That is filthy, immoral, and flat out disgusting. And then the conversation around this madness if often counterproductive and extremely inappropriate. It’s inappropriate to talk about rehabilitation, outreach programs, and debate root causes of gun violence when young knuckleheads in our neighborhoods are deliberately choosing to pick up illegal guns, load bullets into those guns, and commit murder. Not play murder, but real cold blooded 1st degree felony murder. It is inappropriate to even entertain a conservation about not holding parents in the black community accountable for their children’s criminal acts. That’s fuckin ridiculous. Because the parents of these knuckleheads are 100% responsible for the crimes committed by their children. Because it’s a parent’s job to make sure these children are brought up with correct morals and spiritual values and principals which are to serve a guidance compass for their lives. And it starts at home with parents being parents and not only teaching the right values but practicing these values themselves as an example to their children. We need to get back to some basic morals in the black community. We need to draw a hard line in the and between what is right and what is wrong. And our children need to be taught from birth that right is right and wrong is wrong period, end of story. No more of this bullshit of turning morality off and on like a damn light switch. That’s gotta stop right here and right now. I’m all for Eat Black and stay safe in terms of circulating our money throughout the black community and as a matter of fact, I’m all in. But I will not patronize bullshit black owned or not. Let’s show the whole world with our actions around group economics and social cohesion and not lip service, that BLACK LIVES REALLY DO MATTER

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