The Grammy-winning singer, who gave birth to her third child on Thursday, is partnering with Discover on “Eat It Forward,” an initiative that aims to award $5 million to Black-owned restaurants across the United States.
“I thought it was an incredible campaign,” Ciara told CNN Business in an interview Wednesday. “The reality is during this era of Covid, Black-owned restaurants and the Black community in general has been disproportionately affected by all that’s happened. I loved that there was a strong since of urgency and awareness to reach out and help in this area.”
Discover has asked the general public to nominate Black-owned restaurants to receive one of 200 $25,000 awards. The company is accepting nominations on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. To nominate a restaurant, users must tag @Discover and use the hashtags #EatItForward and #Sweepstakes in their social media posts.
Since March, government shutdowns and social distancing mandates meant to limit the spread of coronavirus have had a devastating impact on independent restaurants. The restaurant industry shed nearly 6 million jobs during March and April, erasing 30 years of employment growth in two months, according to the National Restaurant Association.
The trade group told CNN Business in April that it doesn’t track racial demographics for restaurant owners, but one recent study suggests the economic downturn has been far worse for Black-owned restaurants.
Black-owned businesses are less likely to have working relationships with commercial banks, which tend to prioritize larger borrowers, and have had more trouble getting approved for PPP loans from the federal government as a result.
More than 40% of Black business owners across America said they were no longer working in April, according to a University of California Santa Cruz analysis. Only 15% of White business owners said the same, the researchers found.
Discover said it has already received more than 9,000 nominations since the program launched on July 6. The nomination process ends Oct. 31, with the final drawing in November.
“Our initial response to the #EatItForward campaign was extremely positive,” Discover Vice President of Brand Communications Kelly Megel told CNN Business in an email.
National Business League President Ken Harris recently told the The New York Times that restaurants make up a greater percentage of independent businesses in the Black community than the general population.
“The reality is for a lot of Black-owned restaurants in particular, oftentimes they’re the pillar of the community in some kind of unique way,” Ciara said. “There’s so much pride that goes into these restaurants.”
Ciara herself is a huge soul food lover who said she grew up eating pickled pigs feet, chitterlings and other Southern “goodies.” She recalled spending her teenage years eating ox tails, rice and gravy at Hodges Bar-B-Q in the metro-Atlanta area where she also enjoyed peach cobbler at Annie Laura’s Kitchen and was a huge fan of the formerly named Gladys Knight’s Chicken and Waffles.
“I’d get the smothered chicken with rice and gravy,” she said. “Those Black restaurants are a staple. There was a feeling you have when you walk into restaurants. You felt like it was a family, a community.”