Society Confidential: Vivian Pickard mixes business, pleasure in New York

Chuck Bennett
Special to The Detroit News
Billionaire Robert Smith with Vivian Pickard, Susan Taylor and William Pickard at gala in New York.

Local entrepreneur Vivian Pickard did some Black History Month celebrating in New York last week, including participating in the ringing of the closing bell at Nasdaq for global technology leader Overland Tandberg. The folks at Nasdaq invited corporate and community leaders from across the country to New York for a day that included dinner and a formal discussion on black business. The night before, Vivian attended editor Susan L. Taylor’s National CARES Mentoring Movement’s “Love of Children Gala,” which honored billionaire philanthropist Robert F. Smith. The gala was hosted by Tamron Hall and Michael Eric Dyson, and rapper Common was honorary chairperson. Vivian is on the board of directors for Taylor’s charity.

Beans and Cornbread owner Patrick Coleman and his Shoebox Lunches.

Shoebox Lunches educate eaters during  Black History Month

 Patrick Coleman, owner of Beans and Cornbread, the fine-dining soul food restaurant in Southfield, is getting lots of national attention these days for his innovative presentation of Shoebox Lunches honoring Black History Month. A couple years ago, Patrick introduced the concept, replicating the food boxes used by African-Americans while traveling on trains during the time of the Jim Crow segregation laws.  "I heard these incredible stories from my mom and grandmother about traveling to the South and taking the train to visit relatives," he explained. "They had to go to a segregated train and when it was time for lunch, they weren’t allowed in the dining car because that was segregated as well. My grandmother would pull out the shoe boxes filled with such goodies as fried chicken, cornbread and macaroni and cheese." The bonus with Patrick’s Shoebox Lunches is that they have tidbits of black history printed on them. “I call it lunch and learn,” he adds.

The commemorative boxes feature facts about a number of trailblazing figures from black history, including Negro league baseball pitcher Satchel Paige, NASA mathematician Katherine Johnson and Bessie Coleman, the first African-American woman to earn a pilot’s license, and Ruby Bridges, who desegregated an all-white school in Louisiana at just 6 years old. Most recently, Patrick and his Shoebox Lunches have been featured nationally on "Good Morning America," and "ABC World News Tonight," as well as in Black Enterprise, Essence and Ebony magazines. The lunchboxes sell for $15 each during Black History Month and are also on the permanent menu with wings and two sides for the same price. The cost of purchasing the commemorative box alone is $3.

Chuck Bennett is the Fox 2 News Style Ambassador and is the creator of TheSocialMetrocom.