Vegan Kitchen: Support Black-owned food businesses

Shanna-Kay Wright uses simple ingredients to make the vegan dishes at Yardie Ting in Portland. The owner of the Jamaican restaurant in the Public Market House, Wright says the menu’s many vegan choices reflect the influence of Ital food on the island.

Ital food, eaten by members of the Rastafari religion and movement, is usually vegetarian and always minimally processed. However, Wright points out that Yardie Ting’s vegan dishes don’t qualify as Ital, since to suit local tastes she uses non-Ital ingredients such as salt and garlic powder.

“All my years growing up in Jamaica, you would not use any all-purpose seasoning,” explained Wright, who has run a catering business in Portland since 2013. “Ital means food that is from the earth. No powder seasonings. No salt. All organic. All natural.”

The jerk tofu at Yardie Ting in the Portland Public Market House comes with black beans and a kick of spice. Photo courtesy of Yardie Ting

Ital or not, the Yardie Ting vegan dishes, including jerk tofu, coconut curry, the Mon Hungry sandwich, spinach patties, and the fried plantains, taste great and sell well.

But Wright reports foot traffic at the Public Market House remains slow, with many of the surrounding office buildings still empty. Even so, the brand new restaurant is “staying afloat.”

I’d like to see Yardie Ting doing better. And it’s not just because I like the food.

It’s also because Wright is Black, and I want to take action to promote equity and demonstrate that Black Lives Matter. As a white ally in one of the whitest states in the nation, one of the simplest actions I can take is to spend my money at Black-owned businesses, such as Yardie Ting.

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Interior Designers Are Helping Businesses Reimagine Their Workspace

covid-19 workspace
Walled off: Glass or acrylic partitions in a workspace create a sense of separation that makes people feel safer. // Photograph courtesy of MarxModa

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to push businesses to reimagine their workspaces into more hygienic, socially distant environments, interior design professionals are busy helping metro Detroit companies transform offices, community areas, and more for a new age of working.

Whitney Marx, 33, CEO of MarxModa, a Michigan-based interior design business headquartered in Detroit that creates workspaces for commercial, healthcare, and small-business clients, among others, first saw a need for COVID-19 workspace redesigns in February, with the demand intensifying in March and remaining steady since.

“Best practices continue to evolve, and we continue to design for flexibility in the workplace,” she says. “We expect new information almost daily, so design with the ability to adapt is critical.”

Marx and her team of interior designers partner closely with clients to change or adjust their spaces to help employees feel safe at work. “The first clients we helped were the essential businesses, especially healthcare-related clients and organizations looking to set up temporary COVID-care facilities very quickly,” she explains.

MarxModa formed a focus group early on that included clients, manufacturers, experts, and some of its team members to discuss challenges created by the pandemic and possible solutions that space planning and design could offer. Since then, they have worked with hundreds of clients to implement these strategies as people have returned to work.

“We’ve tried to be a resource to help our clients sift through the noise and understand things like new space allocation requirements and density danger zones in their office,” Marx says. Critical locations for COVID-19 safety consideration include common areas where people gather, lobbies, elevators, kitchens, restrooms, and print areas.

Updates to floor plans to meet