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African culture celebrated at new Phoenix retail space

A new restaurant, bar, and shopping area combination is coming to downtown Phoenix. Latha, which means “flavor,” gives customers the experience of African, Brazilian, and Caribbean cultures through food, drinks, music, and art.

Evelia Davis, the CEO and founder of Latha, said she wanted to open a space that was strong, beautiful, and worthy of celebrating. Davis said that it will be a celebration of the flavors of Africa. 

While on a visit to Africa, Davis saw a different narrative that inspired her to create a safe space for those who want to feel proud of their culture. In college, she took an African American studies course that gave her a better understanding of African history. Davis said her roots pushed her to create a space where she can add flavors of the different African cultures. 

“There’s a lot of beauty and excellence, strength, and empowerment in our story that wasn’t being consistently told,” Davis said. “So I think all of those things together inspired a desire to create a space where we celebrate the best of who we are.” 

To Davis, the word flavor means more than just food – it means musical styles, who the Africans are as people, and the expression of culture.

The menu celebrates the ways of African, Caribbean, Brazilian, and the southern United States cultures, Davis said. She’s creating a space where people can feel pride in their ancestry.

Safiyyah Johnson, a member of the collective of Soko Market where Latha is located, is additionally creating a space that will sell bath and body products and signify the culture of Africa. 

The Soko Market will sell clothes, jewelry, accessories, hats, and books as well as Fonio, West African grain and peel-off chips. Customers can simultaneously eat, drink, shop, and enjoy the cultural expression. 

Additionally, the decor will signify cultural importance by including stone walls, lamps handmade in Zambia, and tables handmade in Ghana. Johnson’s current project is to create dishware inspired by the Caribbean. 

Ashley Davis, a friend who attended a popup dinner called the Diaspora Collective, said Phoenix needs more diverse businesses that reflect African culture.

The Diaspora Collective was a proving point that she is on the right track to success because of how she positively impacted everyone around her. 

“The food was delicious. The music was amazing,” Johnson said. “All you saw were smiles and laughter.”

Ashley Davis said Evelia Davis is welcoming and places emphasis on embodying African culture. She said the Diaspora Collective provided her with comfort and food she's never had before. “It made me feel like I wanted to be part of this community,” Ashley Davis said.

Latha and the Soko Market will open in early 2023.

“The most consistent message is creating a space and place where people are empowered to tell a story over and over again,” the founder Evelia Davis said. “I think if that happens and people walk through the doors, they learn about that and then are empowered to tell that story to somebody else. Then, I think we will have done our job.” 

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