Founder Evelia Johnson said her goal is to make patrons of The Diaspora Collective feel at home when they walk through the doors.
Phoenix is a fast-growing city with residents from around the world. Some residents start businesses that celebrate their cultures, and one of the latest examples is The Diaspora Collective, a restaurant and marketplace that focuses on the African American and African diaspora experience.
Located in the city’s historic Heritage Square, The Diaspora Collective is a multi-faceted business that combines a restaurant and a market into a hub of Black culture for Phoenix.
The restaurant, Latha, which means “flavor” in Swahili, serves dishes such as suya flank steak and piri piri wings that include the “flavors of Africa, Brazil, the Caribbean, and the Southern United States.” The space also consists of a market known as the Soko, which specializes in selling “handmade goods from Black artisans” designed to represent the African diaspora.
Several trips to Africa inspired the founder of The Diaspora Collective, Evelia Davis, to create her business in Phoenix and open its doors in April 2023.
“No matter where it was,” Davis said, “it was about making a space to celebrate Africa and the African diaspora through music, art, and culture.”
Since it opened, The Diaspora Collective has found success from patrons eager to sample new cuisines and learn about and interact with African cultures.
“We’ve had really great support from the community,” Davis said. “People coming in and then telling their friends and bringing friends, so overall, it’s been good so far.”
Safiyyah Johnson, a former college classmate of Davis who now works alongside her at The Diaspora Collective, both in running the business and creating the natural bath and body products available for purchase at the Soko, recalls Davis’s enthusiasm for the idea.
“We both went into business separately,” Johnson said, “but once I heard about her idea and how she wanted to cultivate this, it just became, like, ‘wow.’ So to see it come to this has been an amazing adventure.”
Johnson said she views her business as more than just a business, but also a way to change perceptions about Africa and Africans.
“The biggest thing is the narrative: Whether it’s about the African continent or people of African descent, it’s not always the most positive narrative,” Davis said. “So, to me, if people walk away with a better sense of the beauty, the excellence, the power, the perseverance of both the continent and its descendants … that is probably the No. 1 goal.”
Johnson also said her goal is to make patrons of The Diaspora Collective feel at home when they walk through the doors.
“Culture is love, you know? That’s the word people use when they come here,” said Johnson. “They feel love, they feel at home, they feel very at ease with the whole immersive experience that we provide here.”
And the patrons are coming. “The word is getting around [that] this place has great food,” said Lauren Henschen, who was dining at The Diaspora Collective for the first time with her party of four. “We didn’t want to miss out, so we made a reservation.”
The Diaspora Collective
628 E Adams St, Phoenix
Hours: Sunday 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., closed Mondays, Tuesday-Thursday 4-9 p.m., Friday 4-11 p.m., Saturday 5-11 p.m.
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