For Black History Month, TechTown is celebrating the accomplishments of founders who paved the way for Detroit’s entrepreneurial community, as well as those who are leading us into the future.
Every Friday in the month of February, we will shine a spotlight on Black founders and future leaders. We will also continue to celebrate these stories the first Friday of every month in 2021, because Black history and future progress deserves to be recognized every month throughout the year.
Week 1: Food + Culture
Growing up along Bayou Lafourche in New Orleans, Joseph Stafford learned Southern cooking from his mother at an early age. When he and his wife, Margarine, relocated to Detroit, Joseph continued making batches of gumbo and jambalaya using his family’s recipes. In October of 1970, the two opened Louisiana Creole Gumbo at 2051 Gratiot Ave., bringing authentic, old Bayou dishes to the city. The eatery would become an instant hit. (Credit: Hour Detroit)
In 1982, the Stafford’s retired and entrusted the restaurant to a management group led by Joe Spencer, under the name of LCG Inc. Today, Joe Spencer and his family are keeping Joseph Stafford’s recipes, legacy and love for this great city live alive and well with new locations throughout the city of Detroit. From its two locations across Detroit, Louisiana Creole Gumbo is continuing the traditions, legacy and love of quality food and company alive in their stores. Visit https://www.detroitgumbo.com/ to learn more, and place an order today!
Taste the Diaspora Detroit was created to celebrate Africa’s contribution to American cuisine in highlighting the food of the African Diaspora. Founded by Raphael Wright, Ederique Goudia and Jermond Booze, this initiative supports Black restaurants, chefs, farmers and food makers and grows the community across Detroit’s local food system.
As part of this innovative initiative, each week of Black History Month honors a specific cuisine: from Africa to the Caribbean to the Americas. You can support this celebration of cuisine, community and culture by donating here: https://www.tastethediaspora.com/
Week 2: Music + Entertainment
“Pop,” as his children called the elder Gordy, owned and operated several businesses during his lifetime, including a grocery store and a contracting business. Their mother, Bertha, was also an entrepreneur, who started an insurance agency and supported other family business ventures. Berry, along with his sisters and brothers, learned entrepreneurial skills and the importance of hard work from their parents, as they worked in the Gordy family businesses.
Born in 1929, Berry Gordy, Jr. was the seventh of Berry Gordy, Sr. and Bertha Fuller Gordy’s eight children. He tried many careers—boxing, record store ownership, assembly line worker and a tour in the U. S. Army during the Korean War—until he found a niche in the world of entertainment.
With a tenacity that reflected his training as a boxer, a drive to succeed that matched the lessons he learned from his parents, and an attention to detail that is evident in the quality and uniqueness of every element of the Motown experience, Berry built the Empire on West Grand Boulevard, known as Motown Records. (Story and Photo Credit: Motown Museum)
You can learn more about Motown , Berry Gordy Jr., and the Gordy Family by visiting www.motownmuseum.org.
Motown Accelerator is an educational and grant initiative designed to help Detroit’s music community level up and break out.
Following the successful model created by the great Berry Gordy, Motown Accelerator provides artist budgets, marketing strategies and industry connections to local Detroit musicians to guide them toward stardom. Applications for the 2021 program are open now to artists, producers and aspiring managers ages 16 & up. The deadline to apply is March 14th.
Motown Accelerator Program Director, Suai Kee, leverages her self-taught industry knowledge to help kickstart the future of Detroit’s music through her work with local artists. As a creative herself, she is not new to this. In early 2005 her unmistakable talent got her signed to Motown Records and she has since been ever evolving. Touring with Estelle, Solange Knowles and Kem, earning a B.A. in Film from Wayne State University, mentoring teens, and starting her own boutique record label are only a few of her recent undertakings.
You can learn more about Suai Kee here: https://suaikee.com/about-1
Learn more about Motown Accelerator and apply for 2021 here: https://www.motownmusicianaccelerator.com/application/
Week 3: Beauty + STEM
Madam Vivian Smith Nash was a pioneer in the beauty industry and a champion of her students. As someone who wanted to highlight the natural beauty of Black community, she founded Bee-Dew Beauty Laboratories (originally named Luxuro Beauty School) in 1933, followed by the Bee-Dew Beauty College and Bee-Dew Beauty Shop.
Her college was noted to have “the largest enrollment of its kind” in the state of Michigan (Baltimore Afro-American, 19) until her retirement in 1968. It served hundreds African American students in beauty training and ensured their education was affordable and a success. Nash often accompanied her students at events where they received accolades for their skill in cosmetology such as the Leo Morris Annual Hair Show in 1942. Moreover, Nash’s company employed thousands of African Americans, who manufactured over 50 of her products. Her company was said to have a support base of approximately 150,000 people in and outside of the U.S. Madam Nash was also a member of the NAACP and the Booker T. Washington Trade Association, in which she received an award for “Most Oustanding Businesswoman” in 1940 (Ibid., 23).
Story credit: Black Bottom Archives
Alyssa Space, CEO and Founder of ForHerCosmetics, started her business because she understood the need for more inclusive beauty products for women of color. She also wanted to create a brand that brought awareness to the ingredients we use on our skin every day.
Outside of bringing amazing products, Alyssa wanted to be the representation that her community needed for women of color in STEM. As a chemist, she knew it was her duty to inspire the next generation of scientists
You can learn more about ForHerCosmetics at: https://www.forhercosmetics.com/
Week 4: Community
Beulah Cain Brewer was the first Black Assistant Principal and Principal in the Detroit Public School System. The State of Michigan recognizes January 15th as Beulah Brewer day. Brewer Elementary School was established in her honor in 1987 and has expanded to include a Middle School as well. A visionary barrier breaker, Beulah C. Brewer was also a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.
You can learn more about her leadership in the community here:
The Detroit Justice Center (DJC) is a non-profit law firm working alongside communities to create economic opportunities, transform the justice system, and promote equitable and just cities. Detroit Justice Center was founded by Amanda Alexander, a racial justice lawyer and historian who works alongside community-based movements to end mass incarceration and build thriving and inclusive cities. Originally from Michigan, Amanda has worked at the intersection of racial justice and community development in Detroit, New York, and South Africa for more than 15 years.
Learn more: https://www.detroitjustice.org/about-us