While official records record Nathaniel Harrison as the city’s first Black resident in 1848, the origins of San Diego’s Black community can be traced back more than 500 years to city’s early Spanish and Mexican periods. Over generations, the Black community helped shape the city’s culinary, artistic and entrepreneurial spirit and continues to do so today. You can support San Diego’s Black residents while visiting by heading to these Black-owned restaurants, businesses and cultural centers.
An award-winning brewery in South Bay San Diego, this veteran-owned brewery crafts a variety of beers like the “LOL” West Coast IPA. Try the 2019 GABF Bronze Winner “Browner Than Ivan” American Brown Ale.
This cozy Eritrean-Ethiopian restaurant in the University Heights neighborhood uses family recipes for their traditional East African dishes. The shareable dishes come with injera, a large, spongy crepe-like bread that serves the main utensil.
Located in the Lemon Grove neighborhood, Coop’s is a San Diego favorite for slow-smoked barbecue. The menu includes brisket, pulled pork and ribs with homemade sauces and traditional sides like cornbread and mac ‘n’ cheese.
This locally owned ice cream shop offers a rotating selection of 32 ice creams and sorbets. Flavors include chocolate coconut macadamia nut, peanut butter with mango jelly and Kona Coffee with fresh ground coffee. Hammond’s has locations in North Park and Point Loma.
This North Park spot offers an eclectic selection of artisanal donuts, including an assortment of vegan options, plus wood-fired bagels. Using local ingredients, the creations are inspired by international flavors like Ube and Mexican chocolate.
This vegan-friendly eatery inside the WorldBeat Cultural Center in Balboa Park serves Caribbean-inspired dishes made with ingredients from their garden. The affordable menu includes entrees, soups and salads, desserts and smoothies.
StreetCar Merchants, SuckerFree and Shotcaller
Classic Louisiana and southern dishes can be enjoyed at these three sister locations. StreetCar Merchants in North Park is popular for its fried chicken, Nashville hot chicken, waffles, pastries and pies. SuckerFree in the Gaslamp Quarter serves hearty Southern plates in a fun bar atmosphere, while Shotcaller in Southeastern San Diego focuses on street Soul food like loaded tots, soul rolls and tacos.
Trust Restaurant Group
With four restaurants under its belt, Trust Restaurant Group operates some of the most popular eateries in San Diego. Enjoy wood-fired dishes in a casual atmosphere at Trust or classic American steaks at Rare Society. Cardellino features an all-day Italian bakery café, fare at Fort Oak.
The list goes on. For more Black-owned San Diego restaurants, visit San Diego’s Magazine evolving list.
Shops and More
Three San Diego sisters’ search for non-toxic personal care and cleaning products for their families led to the creation of Dirt Don’t Hurt. The online business specializes in making products like charcoal tooth powder, facial and body oils, soaps, scrubs and facial masks with vegan and cruelty-free ingredients.
This small, woman- and Black-owned business in the City Heights neighborhood serves San Diego’s African community by creating modern and easy to wear fashions using traditional African fabrics and designs.
Selling vinyl, cassettes and vintage clothing, this family-owned and operated record shop in North Park is a haven for Hip-Hop aficionados.
Located in the heart of North Park, this barbershop and retail store specializes in hot towel and razor shaves, fades, tapers and mohawks. The shop also sells pins, t-shirts and vintage magazines reflecting Black culture, while also serving as a space for the Black community through events.
With a unique style, this online boutique crafts everything from handmade accessories to natural skin care products.
For more than 10 years, this all-reggae store has been selling music, clothing, accessories, jewelry, oils and incense out of its small North Park shop.
For more information on Black-owned San Diego businesses visit https://buyblacksd.com/.
Art and Cultural Spaces
One of Common Ground Theatre’s main goals is to educate children and youth in the performing, fine, and visual arts. Productions include classic and new works by and about African descent for audiences of all ages, cultures and backgrounds.
Held every year during the last week of January, the San Diego Black Film Festival screens more than 100 films ranging from comedy and drama to animation and music videos. The five-day event also features panel discussions, filmmaker mixers and an awards dinner and gala.
The goal of the San Diego African American Museum of Fine Arts (SDAAMFA) is to educate residents and visitors in San Diego through presenting and preserving the art of African Americans. Throughout the year, the SDAAMFA collaborates with other San Diego museums for special exhibitions and interpretative programs.
Located in Old Town San Diego, the African Museum showcases an extensive collection of ancient, colonial, and contemporary periods of African history throughout the world. The museum also features a research center, a traveling exhibit program and international tours to African and Latin American countries.
Formerly a water tower, The WorldBeat Center in Balboa Park is a non-profit arts organization that celebrates African diaspora and Indigenous world cultures through art exhibits, concerts, dances, festivals and educational events.
Award-winning artist and sculptor Manuelita Brown is a San Diego resident known for her bronze figurative and portrait sculptures reflecting the strength and beauty of African survivors in the Americas. Some of her public work can be enjoyed throughout San Diego, including eight life-sized dolphins embellishing a fountain at the Westfield UTC shopping center in La Jolla.
Martin Luther King Jr. Promenade
Alongside San Diego’s Harbor Boulevard, spanning from the Gaslamp Quarter down to Seaport Village, the Martin Luther King Jr. Promenade is a 12-acre linear park commemorating Dr. King’s life. Sculptures and plaques tell of his legacy and inspiring words. Of the most notable sculptures is Breaking the Chains by Melvin Edwards, a tall metal monument dedicated to the fight for civil rights. Every year in January, the promenade is the setting for the annual Martin Luther King Day Celebration.