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First Black Restaurant Weekend In Springfield Scheduled For This Weekend

Storefront of Jerk Shop Go in downtown Springfield, one of the businesses participating in 217 Black Restaurant Weekend
Mary Hansen
NPR Illinois
Storefront of Jerk Shop Go in downtown Springfield, one of the businesses participating in 217 Black Restaurant Weekend

From old favorites like Boyd’s New Generation to the more recently opened Greathouse Barbecue, seven restaurants are participating in the weekend celebration of food and culture.

The Springfield Black Chamber of Commerce and the Illinois Times are hosting 217 Black Restaurant Weekendthis coming Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Dominic Watson, president and CEO of the chamber, said they are organizing the event for the weekend of Juneteenth, which commemorates the end of slavery in the U.S.

“We thought what better way to celebrate Black business and Juneteenth weekend (than) to celebrate the culture and cuisine that is the Black community,” Watson said.

Participants include Anchors Away, 513 E. Capitol Avenue; Boyd's New Generation Restaurant and Catering, 1831 South Grand Avenue East; Greathouse Barbeque, 4233 Wabash Ave.; Jerk Shop Go, 213 S. Fifth Street; MJ's Fish & Chicken Express, 716 E. Enos Avenue; Ms.D's Kitchen & Grill, 1031 S. 11th Street; Nickey’s Southern Style Kitchen. 330 South Grand Avenue East.

An outdoor kick-off is scheduled for Saturday, 2 p.m. - 5 p.m. on Adams Street between Fourth and Fifth streets, which will feature food from Jerk Shop Go and music by Kapital Sound.

Kadejia Berkley is co-owner of Jerk Shop Go downtown, which serves Caribbean-style tacos, fries, nachos and more. The shop opened in March, just as the city was closing down amid the spread of the coronavirus. But Berkley said they've survived with take-out orders.

She said she hopes a diverse crowd turns out to support the restaurants this weekend.

Berkley, who is a Chicago native, with her sisters opened a similar shop in Macomb when they were in college at Western Illinois University. She said she was surprised at how few Black-owned restaurants there are in Springfield.

“Hopefully (the weekend) can even inspire others to get the creative, entrepreneurial juices going and create their own as well,” Berkley said.

Watson said the coronavirus pandemic and restrictions put in place to stem its spread have hurt small businesses. But recent Black Lives Matter protests have sparked new interest in supporting Black entrepreneurs and highlighted the role those businesses have had in supporting similar movements.

“There’s this ecosystem and revolving door of support that fuels the protests,” he said.

The chamber recently republished its list of Black-owned businesses in Springfield.

Mary Hansen is a former NPR Illinois reporter.
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