At just 21, Francesca “Sol” Chaney, an East New York native, launched her vegan pop-up in 2017 on Bushwick’s Wilson Avenue. It later evolved into a permanent restaurant in the same space that has garnered great fanfare amongst customers (some of whom drive from out of town just to stop by), politicians like Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams (who was at the ribbon-cutting ceremony), and many, many more rooting for her success.
But with the pandemic at large, Sol Sips has had to figure out how a small restaurant—one built around communal gathering and organizing—can use food in a meaningful way. Despite the financial hardships of the current climate, New York City’s protests against police brutality has inspired her to launch Black Supper, a free food initiative feeding the Black community for nourishment and healing.
Each day this week, Chaney is preparing a full plant-based meal with a fresh beverage and a dessert for the black community until Saturday—it’s all cooked on her electric stovetop. People can drop in or reserve a meal by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
“For a lot of Black people, having a brick-and-mortar itself is a huge thing: the history of distribution of wealth and financial literacy can make getting funding and loans difficult...the disparities are there,” she shares in an interview with Time Out New York.
The idea for the Black Supper program is rooted in Black activists that came before her. “The Black Panthers laid the foundation...based on the perception from the media that covered them in the ‘60s/’70s, they didn’t shine light on the nourishment and healing in the community,” she says, referring to the activist group’s instrumental breakfast program. “Then there’s Georgia Gilmore, who secretly fed and funded the civil rights movement. She had to be secretive because once you’re nourishing the Black community, people see it as something threatening,” she says, noting that studies show that children who get breakfast in the morning are able to focus on their education better.
“We can take it back to times when we weren’t even allowed at the table to have food and had to take scraps. But now we’re in 2020 and there’s no reason to be eating scraps; I want to serve a delicious and nourishing meal. For me, that’ll always be plant-based because I am grateful for the healing powers of plants,” she says.
Despite the challenges, Chaney is focused on what motivates her work: the continuous joy it brings her (and others), a sense of duty to advocate for greater equity, and the collective sharing of resources. People who want to donate to her Black Supper efforts can Venmo @solsipshospitality.
Editor’s note: This piece originally ran with the headline “Black Supper is a new free food program serving Black protestors” and has since been changed to replace the word “protestors” with “community.” We want to directly apologize for this error: using protestors in the headline was misleading because the program was intended to nourish anyone in the Black community who needed a pick-me-up, protesting or not. As Chaney accurately points out on her restaurant’s Instagram calling out our mistake, “living in a Black body in America sometimes feels like a protest in itself." Due to the original headline, other publications who did not read the piece thoroughly and did not interview Francesca Chaney, in turn, ran with the same headline. We want to sincerely apologize to Chaney for any harm this headline has caused her and her business. Though we strive to be an anti-racist platform, we are still learning and evolving. But it is clear that we need to do better and do more as allies. We hope you’ll hold us accountable.