Documenting Durham’s Voices: Everybody eats at Zweli’s

This is a video series produced and reported for The Durham VOICE. “Documenting Durham’s Voices” will elevate the voices of and put a face to community members in Durham who are working in the community. The video series will also feature notable events that truly define what Durham is.

Following the carbon monoxide crisis at McDougald Terrace, residents were temporarily displaced to hotels with little of their belongings, no way to prepare full meals, and the looming fear of health problems. 

Leonardo Williams is a local business owner and former educator. But owning the first and only Zimbabwean restaurant in Durham—named after his beloved wife, Zweli—wasn’t enough; He wants to make an impact on the community that has made his business successful.

“It’s very important that if we are dwelling in our communities, and we’re building our wealth on the community by providing something,” he said, “then it’s only right that we give back in a very charitable way as well.”

Zweli’s was able to feed hundreds of displaced families with the help of donations and volunteers from the community. To continue the support, Leonardo created The Good Neighbor Fund, which oversees a resource drive to provide food, clothing and supplies housed in the old Ford dealership near American Tobacco Park.

Holding true to his passion for community activism, he recently hosted a discussion on gun violence over dinner, where he invited both community members and national members from the Mike Bloomberg 2020 campaign.

This is the first of a new community-based series, “Dinner Table Talks at Zweli’s.” Here, community members can gather and discuss targeted issues in the Durham community. Already on the agenda are affordable housing, economic wealth gaps, poverty and hunger, and next up on the calendar, education.

“We want to be very intentional about inviting people to the dinner table to talk about things that impact us,” he said.

And it doesn’t stop there, because Leonardo hinted at a $3 million trick up his sleeve aimed to train and support black men in the community regarding owning a business and running for public office.

A subtle reminder that everybody eats at Zweli’s Kitchen in Durham.