By Safiyyah Muhammad
The Universal Negro Improvement Association – African Communities League (UNIA-ACL), President General Michael R. Duncan recently announced the launching of several UNIA business initiatives, which will provide jobs and stimulate economic development. Duncan unveiled the initiatives during Chicago’s UNIA Division 429 Founder’s Day Celebration held February 12th.
President General Duncan, a Jamaican-born citizen, who, with his family moved to Brooklyn, NY, at age 14, has established the Federation of African Caribbean American-Restaurant Owners Corps, (FACA-ROC), which is a UNIA business initiative used to spur economic growth and create jobs.
“Economics must be at the forefront. We see in our communities that we spend our dollars at 9 a.m., and by 5 p.m., our (hard earned) dollars are taken out of the community. We have to change that paradigm. We here in the UNIA are conscious, and we are concerned. We believe what our ancestors did a hundred years ago; we can do it again. We are working on a plan out of the books of Garvey the creation of the Restaurant Owners Corp, and we are using that to gain economic sovereignty again,” the President General said.
According to High Chancellor Dugué, the UNIA has also purchased trucks and is in the process of completing the construction of a mega warehouse to store restaurant produce and supplies.
“We have leased a 15,000 square foot warehouse in Queens, New York. We will complete construction within two to four weeks. The purpose is to cut out the middle man where you don’t have a distributor or supplier. Then, we will have our grand opening March 26th,” Dugue´ said. “We need drivers, contractors, and plumbers. Who are we going to hire to fill up those positions? We have the ability to become a self-contained entity. If the Black world is to be saved, it is to come from here.”
Dugue´ briefly discussed the FACA-ROC Restaurant Corp initiative. He said, “Mr. Garvey started the Black Star Line; then he moved to the Negro Factories corps. He then applied for the bank charter corp. We are starting with the restaurant charter corp. We realize that Black people spend a lot of money in the restaurant business. We are part of the Jamaican Breeze Restaurant Corp. The first restaurant opened in June 2013, at 23202 Merrick Blvd. in Laurelton, NY and Jamaica Breeze Restaurant #2 opened October 2016 at 2136 Mott Ave., in Far Rockaway, NY. The restaurant has some of the finest cuisines on the planet, and we want to replicate this everywhere.”
According to Dugue´, Black restaurants in New York spend between $8 to $15,000 per week on dry goods, meats, and vegetables, which according to him does not include money to pay employees salary or rent. “Restaurants in New York spends more than $52 million dollars a year in restaurant supplies. I am amazed at how much money restaurant business owners spend. It also shows how much money we have collectively as a people,” he said.
FACA-ROC has partnered with food and paper suppliers including Black Farmers Association, Campbell, LLC, Caribbean suppliers, Fish-Bronx Terminal Market, Food Nation, Freedom Paper Company, among others.
Duncan stated that the UNIA restaurant business initiative is a starting point, but added that the organization intends to add more UNIA initiatives parallel to the vision and philosophy of Marcus Garvey. “Everything I do is from the teachings of Marcus Mosiah Garvey, and I don’t go anywhere or do anything unless I bring the voice of Marcus Garvey with me.”
Shaka Barak, President of the Marcus Garvey Institute, stated that the President General and the High Chancellor’s recent visit to Chicago was to meet with Chicago’s two UNIA Divisions; 401, located at 330 E. 37th Street and Division 429, located at 4941 S. King Drive. “We (UNIA) are getting ready for change, and we are getting ready to expand, so we wanted to hear the President-elect’s vision. We are determined to do what needs to be done and do what the Honorable Marcus Garvey did. We want to continue to build strong relationships with organizations across the country.”