Spicy Green Book works to promote black-owned restaurants

The project was inspired in part by Victor Green’s seminal guide, The Negro Motorist’s Green Book, which provided African-American travelers with resources to find safe accommodations, gasoline, and other services in the era of Jim Crow laws. Similarly, Spicy Green Book shines a light on black-owned businesses, but with the goal of promoting those businesses nationally and strengthening the communities around them. It also provides free marketing and creative services to these businesses.

FSR sat down with Baston to learn more about the directory and its impact.

What sparked the idea for Spicy Green Book?

We have been operating since June 2020. At the time, I didn’t know how to build websites, but I had a friend who was actually a software developer and asked him to build it. With COVID and the murder of George Floyd, I kept seeing everyone posting screenshots and spreadsheets of black-owned businesses and things like that. I thought when you’re looking for a place to eat, you’re not going to go through a spreadsheet. So we wanted to make it easier for people to find Black-owned businesses and for those businesses to get the exposure they needed.

Why did you decide to pay tribute to Victor Green’s driver’s guide?

It’s just a nod to history. I was thinking of a name, and I texted my family and told them my idea. One of them was watching “Trigger Warning with Killer Mike” [a Netflix docuseries on activism]and he mentioned The Negro Motorist’s Green Book. He said, “Man, I wish somebody would bring that back.” It was so crazy that he was watching this just when I was thinking about a name for the company. I took it as divine intervention. I asked my family how to incorporate the name into this, and they said to add “spicy” as a food.

What impact has COVID had on the launch of the site?

There are advantages and disadvantages. The benefits would be that people weren’t working and wanted to volunteer and contribute elsewhere. Hollywood was shut down, so a bunch of creatives wanted to keep their wallets clean and things like that. We ended up being able to reach people we never would have reached before. On the other hand, it had an impact on the restaurant sector, so they also needed help.

What do you want black restaurateurs to know about Spicy Green Book?

It’s important to me that black business owners get to know other black business owners and keep this resource going. If we can keep it circulating, we can all collaborate, organize events and things like that. We had a live event with about 25 food trucks, and it was great to see all of these business owners get to know each other and be like, “When are we going to collaborate on the next event?” Or, ‘Next time you’re doing something, we can get together and you bring your audience and I bring my audience.’ I was very happy to see that part of it.

It is the network; I think we have that advantage. We offer visibility and creative services, but it’s really about having a network and getting to know people in any industry. Networking, in general, is a full-time job. And it’s a hard thing to do, so you’re lucky for every contact you get. Through Spicy Green Book, I’ve seen companies that come to our events benefit from these leads and other exciting opportunities they wouldn’t have had before.

Looking to the future, what are your hopes for the yearbook?

I hope we will continue to increase visibility and collaborate with other business owners. Hopefully, as we begin to pursue other events, they will happen regularly in more than just Southern California. When you talk about being intentional, it’s hard to think about it every day. It’s like, ‘I’d rather go to Amazon or Target because it’s easier than going to a small business.’ But if there’s an event happening once a month in your area and you know there are businesses you want to support, it’s much easier to just show up there and say, ” I know all of these businesses are black owned, and that’s where I want to be intentional and spend my money, and I can actually come here once a month and contribute to causes I believe in.

How can the support of these black businesses lead to widespread change?

Seeing like-minded business owners is a huge thing. Kids who see all these business owners are like, “Oh, I can do that too. Often you think you are only limited to a certain career perspective. More representation is really what everyone is trying to fight for.

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