This article is part one of a two-part series exploring Silver Spring, Maryland’s historical and contemporary role as a black space.
There are a lot of conversations going on right now about the future of downtown Silver Spring. Here’s one we should be having: Silver Spring is one of the region’s most significant Black business districts.
This winter, Montgomery County planners are working on recommendations for the Silver Spring Downtown Plan, which will guide the business district’s growth and evolution over the next twenty years. And a few months ago, the Montgomery County Council voted to move forward with the Silver Spring business improvement district, which would create a private non-profit to handle marketing and promotions for the downtown area.
While both of these efforts have discussed the role of small businesses in downtown, there hasn’t been a huge focus on specifically Black-owned or oriented businesses. A recent study found that of downtown’s 100+ “minority-serving” businesses, the majority of them focus on Black, Black African, and Caribbean patrons.
What does that look like in practice? In Silver Spring you’ll find a coworking space for the African diaspora and a hub of Black interior designers. On the weekends you’ll find Ethiopian, Jamaican, and Ivorian festivals, as well as the region’s only Black Pride event. And in the evenings you’ll see lines outside Black-owned clubs and bars like Society Lounge, Republic Garden, and Kaldi’s Social House, immortalized in a Tostitos commercial.
Silver Spring’s Ethiopian restaurant scene is well-known, but it’s Senegalese, Caribbean, and Southern barbecue restaurants are getting attention too. Not only were there several Black Lives Matter protests throughout Silver Spring last summer, but two designers painted a Black Lives Matter mural outside their downtown clothing store.