For the fourth year in a row, Rep. Chynah Tyler is encouraging Boston residents to celebrate Black History Month by taking part in the Black Restaurant Challenge.

“Despite Black-owned businesses being the backbone of our community, we know that Black-owned restaurants are significantly more likely to close down in their first year of operation,” Tyler wrote in an Instagram postannouncing the challenge. “Through this challenge it is my goal to expose you to some fantastic restaurants this month and to create year-round supporters Black-owned restaurants across Boston.”

A worker cleans the floors of MIDA, an Italian-inspired restaurant in Boston's South End.
A view from the inside of MIDA looking out at Tremont St.
Karen Marshall / GBH News

Starting this month, the Morning Edition team will be visiting Black-owned restaurants and businesses in the city, starting first with MIDA in the South End, owned by Chef Douglass Williams. For Douglass, MIDA is more than just an Italian-inspired restaurant; it’s an engine to empower a community. Although this year has been one of the most difficult in the restaurant industry, Williams remains hopeful about the power of restaurants.

“It’s scary, it’s daunting, it’s exciting, it’s a feeling of solidarity of all coming together at the same time,” he told host Joe Mathieu this week. “It gives you a great sense of responsibility. And with that responsibility comes community.”

One way he’s giving back to the community is by partnering with the Greater Boston Food Bank and The Black Economic Council of Massachusetts to raise funds for its Community Through Hospitality campaign that is fighting hunger in Massachusetts, where food insecurity has increased by 66% during the pandemic.

“We thought it would be an efficient, impactful way to reach our neighborhood and many neighborhoods beyond ours,” Williams said about the partnership. “I want the residents and the people who are either over-looked or front and center to know that this is their restaurant, this is their neighborhood, I’m working for them and I’m trying to provide for everyone that I can.”

"You have to knock on doors until you get to the destination that you want to find."
Chef Douglass Williams, Owner Of MIDA

Williams said that although restaurants have been hit hard by the pandemic, he is optimistic that the creativity of the restaurant industry will help them prevail, and get ready for a resurgence of community dining in the future. “That’s part of the restaurant business — problem solving,” he said. “So this is just another problem, granted very large and one of the worst ever, but we want to get through this and see the other side.”

Listen: Douglass on how tenacity has helped him overcome barriers in the restaurant industry.

Williams, one of a few Black chef/owners in the city, also had advice for future entrepreneurs and restaurant industry professionals who face barriers: “For the younger folks and the 15-year-old me — realizing there’s opportunity everywhere, especially in this city,” he said. “Tenacity. You have to knock on doors until you get to the destination you want to find.”