RICHMOND, Va. -- Zeus -- the Harlem Globetrotter that is -- walked out from a room at Mama J's, hoping to surprise a group of 40 George Wythe High School students.
The honor school students were dining at the Jackson Ward spot for Richmond Black Restaurant Week.
Few seemed to look away from their plates of home cooked food until Zeus walked to the center of the room; at 6'8" he makes a commanding figure.
But he was all smiles as he shared his story with the students. It was one about holding out for your dreams and remaining authentic in the pursuit of them -- and always being kind.
"If you're a nice person, stay a nice person," he said. "Don't let people try to change you and say you got to be mean to make it in this world."
"There a place here in this world for you," Zeus, whose birth name is Julian, added.
Renew Richmond, the nonprofit beneficiary of the RBRW, facilitated the trip with funding from Capital One. Renew, founded in 2008, works with five schools and multiple groups to create urban gardens and provide education to kids, adults, and families about healthy eating.
The students were at Mama J’s to learn about entrepreneurialism, hospitality and community engagement.
Zeus also gave away tickets to their March 10 game at the Richmond Coliseum. Then Mama J invited him into the kitchen to teach him how to prepare some of their signature dishes.
Executive Director Saajida Chohan said the proceeds from RBRW will help develop Renew’s largest site, the Farmstrong East End Community Center (located next to Armstrong High School), into a multi-purpose learning facility.
Members from the East End community will be able to gain skill-based, hands-on experience within a variety of activities from growing food to learning how to build furniture.
Participating RBRW restaurants paid a fee that went into a pool, with funds used to market the event and 10 percent of that pool going to Renew. There will also be opportunities during the event to make a direct donation to Renew.
The intent of RBRW is to reach the local foodie community with the food and stories of black entrepreneurship and to promote economic diversity.
The inspiration was the Memphis Black Restaurant Week, founded by Cynthia Daniels, which launched last year.
Locally, Shemicia Bowen, Amy Wentz and Kelli Lemon have worked hard to get 20 restaurants to participate in the inaugural event. You can read more about its origin, here.
- Big Herm’s Kitchen, 315 N. Second St.
- Brewer’s Cafe, 1125 Bainbridge St.
- Cary 100, 100 E. Cary St.
- Charles’ Kitchen, 9127-C W. Broad St.
- Chef Mamusu’s Africanne on Main, 200 E. Main St.
- Croaker’s Spot, 1020 Hull St.
- The DM Restaurant & Lounge, 5114 Richmond Henrico Turnpike
- Family Secrets Restaurant, 5310 Chamberlayne Ave.
- Inner City Blue’s, 3015 Nine Mile Road
- Loft Seventeen, 1717 E. Franklin St.
- Ma Michele’s Café, 10811 Hull Street Road, Midlothian
- Mama J’s Kitchen, 415 N. First St.
- Ms. Girlee’s, 112 N. Fifth St.
- Nomad Deli & Catering, 207 W. Brookland Park Blvd.
- Sugar’s Crab Shack, 2224 Chamberlayne Ave.
- The Speakeasy, 526 North 2nd St.
- Spoonbread Bistro, 2526 Floyd Ave.
- Southern Kitchen, 1726 E. Main St.
- Sweet Teas Southern Cuisine, 1700 E. Main St.
- Traditionz Wings & Grill, 3330-5 S. Crater Road, Petersburg