The Black Lives Matter movement has been gaining critical attention around the world, but for the founders of Dine Diaspora, the message is ingrained in their work. “We amplify Black voices,” says Nina Oduro. “We tell the stories of Black entrepreneurs and creatives in the food industry. We want that to grow, and not just because we’re in this movement.”
Oduro and her fellow co-founders launched Dine Diaspora in 2014 as a way to strengthen ties within the African food community. They became known for events like a speaker series, private dinners, and their annual Chop Bar food festival. For the past three years, Dine Diaspora has also identified and celebrated Black women in food during Women’s History Month.
Dine Diaspora has always taken an inclusive view as to what qualifies as a food business. “Mom-and-pops have been a really big staple in D.C. for many Black food entrepreneurs, but many others may never even get to have a restaurant,” Oduro says. “These people are also critical to how people experience African diaspora food. When you get away from just looking at people that have been able to establish bases, you really get into the core.”
“What we’ve always done is [bring] people together through food and the experience of eating food together,” says Maame Boakye. The pandemic presented fresh challenges that Dine Diaspora was able to meet. Their speaker series—Dish and Sip—was easy enough to move online, and they recently hosted several Twitter chats and Instagram Live sessions. They’re also taking what they learned and creating online classes for African food businesses looking to better their brand development and marketing skills.
Now, they’re focusing on how to spotlight the work of Black culinary creatives for their increasingly global online audience. “We’re going to think of a bigger picture, which includes providing more offerings online for people who don’t have access to come to one of our events physically,” says Nana Ama Afari-Dwamena. While the majority of their online audience is U.S.-based, there is a prominent and growing following from the United Kingdom, Ghana, and Nigeria. “I think it’s a great opportunity to interview someone based in South Africa and have people here learn about their craft, their product, and what they’re doing in the food space,” she says. —Sabrina Medora
The Ghanaian founders of the restaurant have been noted as change-makers who are shaping the food system in Washington DC and making D.C. an exciting place to eat, even when it is gripped by a global pandemic.
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