'Contributing to the community:' Milwaukee business brings vegan twist to Juneteenth celebrations

Alice's Garden

MILWAUKEE -- An idea from a Milwaukee business owner hit hard by the pandemic is growing, looking for ways to celebrate Juneteenth through vegan soul food.

Juneteenth is formally recognized as June 19, marking the emancipation of the last remaining slaves in the U.S. and a celebration of African American culture. But celebrations are stretching all week long in Milwaukee. At Alice's Garden near 21st and North, one event aims for the soul.

Vegan Soul

"Create menus that honor the heritage and culture of African American people," said Zakiya Courtney, owner of Vegan Soul.

Courtney has been a personal chef and caterer for years, running Vegan Soul out of her kitchen. The coronavirus hit her business hard.

"It stopped. This is my first event that I've had. My business totally stopped," Courtney said.

Vegan Soul

But, featuring some ingredients grown right in the community garden, a sold out pop-up soul food restaurant is showing Courtney what the pandemic has returned to us.

Zakiya Courtney

"Just being able to sit down at a table and talk with your family -- what their day has been like. What their world has been like...goals, plans...all those discussions take place at the table and usually over food," said Courtney.

Also important, customers are there to support a local black business owner. It's an appreciation and celebration Courtney will extend beyond Juneteenth.

"When people choose to support businesses like mine, they are contributing to the community," Courtney said.

In case you are wondering how Courtney makes ribs -- a soul food staple -- vegan, she says she uses gluten as a meat alternative.