Starex Smith — AKA the Hungry Black Man — is planning the International Black Food & Wine Festival, set for Juneteenth weekend 2022 in Miami.
Smith, who has experience with a number of festivals and dinners, including Miami's Soul Vegan Food Festival, says the new event will highlight the many cuisines that trace Black history and culture.
"It's going to be a celebration of the Black diaspora," he tells New Times. "You have low country and Midwestern. You go down to Louisiana and there's Creole. There's even a Mexican mashup in the Mississippi Delta. The beauty of the International Black Food & Wine Festival is that there are so many cultures to highlight."
Smith, whose Hungry Black Man site covers Black cuisine in Chicago, Detroit, Atlanta, New Orleans, Austin, Montgomery, and Orlando, as well as Miami, says that he was looking for a way to celebrate all those unique food styles.
"In Black culture, there are cooks and chefs and confectioners and influences that Black America loves. We have so much more than Marcus Samuelsson," he says, though he's quick to add that the chef and partner in Red Rooster Overtown is working hard to bring Black chefs to the forefront of the culinary scene.
A Facebook post this past weekend announced the event with a provocative opening salvo: "The South Beach Wine & Food Festival has offended Black folks for the last time."
In a 40-minute video that accompanied the announcement, Smith had pointed words about the SOBEWFF, saying it's neither marketed to Blacks nor touts a single Black sponsor. In effect, he said, it's is invisible to the Black community.
He sees his festival as a response to the question: "How can our dollars provide safe spaces and opportunities for Black businesses?"
Smith's Facebook announcement has garnered more than 600 comments to date.
"The post went crazy. All these folks are reaching out," he says.
SOBEWFF founder Lee Brian Schrager tells New Times that he'll be the first person to buy tickets for the new festival. "I would love to support it," he says.
Schrager says SOBEWFF invited many chefs of color to this year's event, including past participants Carla Hall, Nina Compton, and Melba Wilson. Many, he says, couldn't leave their restaurants or felt uneasy traveling during COVID.
"I look at websites and social media from Charleston to Los Angeles in search of chefs," he says, adding that he would be happy to sit down with Smith at any time to have a frank discussion on how to improve SOBEWFF.
Such a meeting of the minds doesn't appear likely anytime soon.
"I don't want SOBEWFF to do anything but what they've been doing," Smith says. "If you haven't become more diverse yet, then don't now."
Smith hasn't announced a site for the first International Black Food & Wine Festival, but he has set a date: June 16-19, 2022 — Juneteenth weekend. A preview event is planned for February.
"There will be at least 20 to 40 percent vegan activations," Smith promises.
In the meantime, Smith is hosting several dinners this weekend, including a Vegan Dinner and Social with chef Kofi on Saturday, May 29, and the Black Woman Innovator and Disruptor exhibition, concert, and conversation (with food by Findler Charles) on Sunday, May 30.
Vegan Dinner and Social with Chef Kofi. 8 to 11 p.m. Saturday, May 29, at 121 NE 25th St., Miami. Tickets cost $60 via eventbrite.com.
The Black Woman Innovator and Disruptor Dinner. 7 p.m. Sunday, May 30, at the Center for Black Innovation. 937 NW Third Ave., Miami. Tickets cost $50 to $55 via eventbrite.com.