Whitehaven Black Restaurant Week builds energy for community, small businesses

By Published: January 22, 2019 12:50 PM CT

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was well-known for his legacy of nonviolence, but his work also centered on economic justice and promoted communal responsibility and the pooling of resources for economic prosperity in black communities.

Whitehaven Black Restaurant Week, which started Jan. 19 and runs through Saturday, Jan. 26, is designed to honor King’s legacy, promote black-owned businesses and bring attention to a majority-black community, according to Pearl Walker, president of the I Love Whitehaven Neighborhood Association behind the event. 

“A lot of people just don’t know what’s going on in Whitehaven,” Walker said. “This is about support.”

King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech was given at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Before his assassination, he was working on another Washington, D.C., demonstration known as the Poor People’s Campaign, the goal of which was to highlight joblessness and economic oppression.

King came to Memphis to support city sanitation workers’ rights, and in one of his last sermons he said, “If a man doesn’t have a job or an income, he has neither life nor liberty nor the possibility for the pursuit of happiness. He merely exists.”

I Love Whitehaven hopes to drive business to the 10 participating restaurants and show that Whitehaven has the buying power to sustain new businesses. 

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“We’re for progress, whether it’s black-owned or otherwise. We want progress,” Walker said. “I can’t impress upon you enough the spending power that is in Whitehaven. The dollars that leave Whitehaven due to a lack of things we want. Yes, we want to support black-owned restaurants, but we spend money on other things as well. But we have to leave our community to do that.”

This is the second large event from I Love Whitehaven, which is currently seeking 501(c)3 nonprofit status and plans to launch its website soon. The first, an I Love Whitehaven Weekend held in November, helped package and promote existing events like the annual Whitehaven Christmas Parade and Christmas concert at Abundant Grace Church alongside an open-air market and food truck corral held at Whitehaven Plaza.

Walker said a lot of Whitehaven residents feel ignored by the city and developers, and Whitehaven Black Restaurant Week is a way to create their own investment. 

“A lot of the residents feel like the city has turned its back on Whitehaven and gives all its energy to Graceland,” said Walker. “So, I’m just part of a sentiment, a group of people saying, 'You know what, let’s do it ourselves.' ”

Stanley Taylor, co-owner of Motherland Gallery, which is sponsoring the weeklong event, said he likes “to participate in activities with these restaurants when I can. And I always try to support black businesses."

Located at 4080 Elvis Presley Blvd. in the Whitehaven Plaza, Motherland Gallery is within 10 minutes of all participating restaurants and hosted the Salad Express pop-up on Monday.

“I think (the restaurant week) means a great deal,” Taylor said. “It draws attention, brings people in from other parts of the city. It’s word of mouth. I think it’s really important and we’re going to continue to support activities like this.”

Walker said Reaves Law Firm PLLC, a Whitehaven-based firm located at 4466 Elvis Presley Blvd., is another example of a community member doing its part to help both black-owned restaurants in Whitehaven and workers affected by the federal government’s historic shutdown.

“They’re feeding furloughed workers,” she said. “If you go to Reaves’ office and present your proof of furlough, they’ll give you a coupon to go across the parking lot and get a free meal at Egg King Cafe.

“I think Dr. King would be proud of (Whitehaven Black Restaurant Week),” Walker added. “Take me out of the equation, just the energy around it. People coming together to support each other. I think he would be real proud of this. He would have questions about why the city isn’t doing more to lend a hand … but simply put, I think he would be proud and he’d probably want to know where the soul food places are.” 


Egg King Cafe: 4485 Elvis Presley Blvd. Breakfast and lunch with healthy options. Call 901-249-3690.

ElectroLyfe Juice Bar: 4466 Elvis Presley Blvd., Suite 164. Juice bar and healthy dishes. Call 901-244-6727.

Kountry Kitchen: 1128 Winchester. Classic Southern soul food. Call 901-345-5505.

Lenny's Deli Sandwiches & Hot Philly Subs: 4103 Elvis Presley Blvd. Sandwiches, salads and subs. Call 901-507-4298. 

Millbranch Wings & More: 5182 Millbranch. Wings, burgers, salads and more. Call 901-421-8094.

Pollard's BBQ: 4560 Elvis Presley Blvd. Barbecue, burgers and fish. Call 901-398-2987.  

Salad Express (pop-up at Motherland Gallery was held Jan. 21) 4080 Elvis Presley Blvd. Fresh loaded salads with meat options.

Sensational Wings & Things: 9050 Millbranch. Wings, burgers and healthy options. Call 662-470-5939. 

Smooth Living Health Food Restaurant: 1263 Winchester. A variety of smoothies and healthy dishes. Call 901-308-2994.  

Uncle Lou's: 3633 Millbranch. Chicken, wings, burgers and healthy options. Call 901-332-2367.

This story originally appeared at High Ground News, Memphis’ source for neighborhood reporting. Sign up for the newsletter here.


Whitehaven Black Restaurant Week I Love Whitehaven Neighborhood Association Pearl Walker

Cole Bradley

Cole Bradley is a native Memphian and applied anthropologist. Since 2011, Bradley has worked as a researcher, strategist, and community engagement specialist across the city's private, public, and non-profit sectors. Passionate about storytelling, Bradley began contributing to High Ground News in 2017.

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