In the Field

Dine Diaspora Empowers Culture and Food

By: The Local Palate

Dine Diaspora is a Black women-owned agency striving to service a more equitable food system. Founded by Nina Oduro, Nana Ama Afari-Dwamena, and Maame Boakye, the agency has been working to create opportunities for people to connect and experience the culture and food of those who represent the African diaspora. And with that, they are pouring into their culinary community.

The connector of the group, Boakye, introduced Oduro to Afari-Dwamena in 2014. Sharing Ghanaian roots, they recognized a lack of representation of the African diaspora. The three women have common goals of wanting to see a reflection of themselves at the table and support pay equity. Their combined network and skills of working in inter national development, leadership, and scientific research helped to execute their vision, starting with meals and gatherings.

Being in DC, they sought connections and came up with the idea to bring people together using food as a facilitator. “If you don’t know anyone in a room, the food can connect you so much that it can build relationships,” Oduro says.

The Beginnings of Dine Diaspora

It started with signature dinners that brought talent to the forefront. They cooked meals that empowered them and shared their food journey. Ghanaian-American Eric Adjepong, finalist on season sixteen of Bravo’s Top Chef, was the first talent to kick things off. He, too, is passionate about introducing diners to West African cuisine and believed in Dine Diaspora’s vision.

Built for the culturally inquisitive, their events started to evolve with creative visionaries taking cues from the community. “Food is an expression, not just of particular cultures as they are, but of individual journeys,” Oduro says. “We don’t lead with ‘we know everything.’”

The group also recognized equitable pay has historically been an issue among Black workers. According to the Economic Policy Institute, “Black men are paid only 71 cents on the white male dollar.” Black women who also face gender discrimination are paid even less at 64 cents.

The launch of Chop Bar—a Ghanaian phrase for “makeshift small restaurants where people gather over food and positive vibes”—drove the Dine Diaspora team to work with their first brand sponsors allowing them to pay the chefs in attendance.

Dine Diaspora could not imagine unfairly compensating chefs considering the effort exerted to curate a meal. As the brand grew from dinners to festivals, it needed more revenue to compensate its talent.

The launch of Chop Bar—a Ghanaian phrase for “makeshift small restaurants where people gather over food and positive vibes”—drove the Dine Diaspora team to work with their first brand sponsors allowing them to pay the chefs in attendance.

The pop-up event, which brought the foods of East and West Africa to guests, became an extension of the intimacy of the signature dinners, giving diners close access to chefs. It also solidified the agency’s partnerships. Dine Diaspora now coordinates marketing campaigns between brands and culinary creatives.

The halt of in-person events in 2020 made the agency get creative. They transitioned to virtual events to still deliver comforting, thought-provoking culinary content. Once able to offer equity in the food space, the team began to execute free events. Their Dish & Sip series, which gives leaders a platform to share their experiences in the industry, moved to Instagram Live. It has since returned as an in-person event.

They partnered with Facebook to host Digital Diasporas. The series covers the cross-section of food, travel, and lifestyle. Speakers shared about their experiences as creatives, the effects of the pandemic, and the lack of equity in their fields. This expanded Dine Diaspora’s reach to the African continent, something they couldn’t achieved with in-person events.

Beyond Dine Diaspora Events

For the past for years, Dine Diaspora has recognized Black Women in Food (BWIF). BWIF’s mission is to “support Black women in the food and beverage industry to advance their work and contribute to a more equitable and sustainable food system.” Going into its fifth year, the Dine Diaspora team is focusing on building out the BWIF community. They hope to create a network of resources from previous and future winners.

Each March, BWIF honors thirty-one women. Dine Diaspora works with media partners to obtain funding to increase opportunities for BWIF honorees. “Black women have always been game changers, innovators, creators, and trailblazers when it comes to food,” says Allegra Massaro, a 2021 BWIF Game Changer Honoree. “I am grateful for spaces like Dine Diaspora that make it their mission to amplify the voices of today’s Black women who are creating seismic change in the world of food.”

Dine Diaspora is continuing its mission of bringing people together to celebrate the culinary range of the Black diaspora while giving diners a chance to explore culture through a new lens. As the world continues to open up, expect to see more in-person and virtual events to reach new audiences.

All of it, Oduro says, is about encouraging everyone to embrace opportunities to dig deeper into food culture and food history. “Food is not just about food. Food is at the intersection of everything.”


Ways to support Dine Diaspora

Recognize Black Women: Nominate and encourage others to nominate game-changers, innovators, trailblazers, creators, culinarians, and amplifiers in the food and beverage industry for BWIF.

Push Brands: Encourage brands to support the mission of Dine Diaspora, amplifying the influence of African food culture around the world.

Show Up: Support food and beverage businesses. Be open and inquisitive to exploring cultures through food.

Engage: Follow @dinediaspora on social media and join their email list to stay current on their efforts to support the culinary community.

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