Editor's note: Jessica Ann is a restaurant owner who's blogging about trying to rebound from the coronavirus pandemic at My Rebound by FOX 17. She founded The Candied Yam, a Grand Rapids restaurant serving Southern cuisine, in 2016. She is married with a daughter who just graduated high school and an adult son. She lives in Kentwood.
What happened to George Floyd is not new. It’s Wrong: Eric Gardner, wRong. Michael Brown, wrOng. Breonna Taylor, wroNg. Freddie Gray, wronG. Many other murders of blacks by some bad police – just plain WRONG. Period.
MY REBOUND: SEE ALL OF JESSICA ANN'S BLOG POSTS
People are wearing their feelings on their sleeves. They are looking for comfort food to feed their feelings through The Candied Yam, delightful Southern Cuisine. This restaurant just so happens to be black owned. Coincidence? Less than 52 years ago, my black mother and black father could not even sit at a counter and eat food to enjoy a meal, without regards for whomever was there dining.
Remember Ezell Blair Jr., David Richmond, Franklin McCain and Joseph McNeil, The Greensboro Four? These four college students staged a non-violent protest technique. The first staged sit-in at a lunch counter in North Carolina in 1960 eventually forced establishments to change their segregationist policies. They had enough of the brutal murders. The 1955 murder of a young black Emmett Till, who had allegedly whistled at a white woman was the final straw.
The food we make is for everybody. People are supposed to try your food then tell another person who would then tell yet another person about how they had THE best fried chicken or catfish and mac 'n' cheese! Or they were at an event we catered, and they couldn’t believe how delicious it was, so they stopped by the restaurant to grab some to take home to their families. I mean that’s how people choose a dining establishment, right? Good food. Good customer service. Right? I mean, not because it’s a "black-owned business." I think I would feel sad if I only went to a business because it was "white or black"?
MY REBOUND: SEE MORE BLOG POSTS
As of late, many new faces that I am seeing are great. White, black, Hispanic, Asian. You name it. They are at The Candied Yam. We have many "new friends" and allies. Everybody wants to support – now. Is it because they see buildings being burned down? Or is it because they genuinely want to know "how to support"? Why didn’t they ever ask the question before?
My late grandfather, Frederick Douglass Richardson, would not believe what he would be seeing at our restaurant in 2020. A white person asking which black-owned restaurant can he eat at, support and give his dollars to? A white man OFFERING a black man a seat, so HE can stand?! A white senior Republican woman (customer named Joyce, and I affectionately call her crew the Golden Girls) sitting and eating lunch with a young black male named Terrance!?! What in the world is happening?
For the past four years, this has been the activity inside of my restaurant. I am truly grateful and feel very fortunate. In the past few days, we are experiencing an increase in love and support for each other in the community. That makes me smile, because so much more meaningful conversation is taking place in OUR spot. White people and black people are talking, listening, praying and hopefully this week will dine – TOGETHER AGAIN.
The financial numbers are starting to help our COVID-stricken business as well. I am a firm believer that just because you don’t have all that you need, you should still help others. God has never let me down from giving to others. I am so happy that many want to eat at my restaurant. With the "extra" money, we are still doing our Random Yams of Kindness. This week, we were fortunate to be able to feed 175 artists on the weekend as they sought to beautify downtown with their paintings after rioters harmed Grand Rapids after peaceful protesters united to be heard.
Many people are coming to support. Thank you. Thank you VERY much!
Unfortunately, some are coming to make themselves "feel better." But if you, in your heart, are coming because you think it makes you or me less guilty about the senseless murders of blacks in the country – it does not.
MY REBOUND: SEE 'ONE NICKEL AT A TIME' BY JESSICA ANN
Each one of us can make a difference, but we have to have real deep conversations about how and why we feel the ways that we do. So coming to my restaurant to purchase a meal does NOT do anything to solve any real issues. Please don’t DO ME – don’t pity me. I want to EARN your business. I want you to enjoy my customer service and hospitality. I want you to crave my delicious delightful Southern cuisine, my heritage food so much that you become a customer and not a donor.
A donor is a person who donates or gives money to a charity or cause. I am neither. I am just like everyone else who owns a restaurant. I want to be appreciated and valued and enjoyed. The Candied Yam is not a science experiment. We are award winning and one of the top 50 restaurants to eat at in our area. Since opening less than four years ago, celebrities traveling through and out-of-towners come, because they hear about the great quality of The Candied Yam’s delicious food and service. I want my community to feel the same.
Love and healing starts with each person being honest enough to look inside your soul, ask the right questions, make the right moves with the right motives and intentions. Could we use your support? Absolutely! We NEED money to take care of our families, pay bills and to live our American dream. But if you visit, please know that we desire to have you as a customer, not a checklist of one and done.