Tucked away unassumingly in the Gardiner Lane Shopping Center, Funmi’s Nigerian Restaurant is empty when the group of girls enter. The restaurant typically closes between 2:30 and 5:30 while Funmi Aderinokun prepares for dinner, so the regular lunch crowd has already dispersed. Today, however, the place is reserved for a special event. Within moments, it is once again bustling with activity.
“So how many languages do you speak?” one girl asks another. The answer is three. Another young lady at the other end of the table chats about school problems. A few dare to stand up and dance to the West African music that is playing, showing off ornate African dresses that represent their individual cultures.
The “Black Girls Bloom” group first began at Hope Place when several African refugees and adoptees began gathering together on Saturday mornings. They talk mainly about identity, specifically as it pertains to embracing who God created them to be, counteracting the unkind words that many have heard about their accents, cultural practices, or appearances.
Conversations at Funmi’s continue as each girl is served a plate of tomato-tinted chicken, jollof rice, and fried plantains. The real treat, however, is that Aderinokun herself takes a seat and begins to share her experiences as a Nigerian immigrant and a successful chef and business owner.
Born in Lagos, Nigeria, Aderinokun came to America when she was 33. She worked in a bank until she decided to step out and open her own restaurant in 2010. In the midst of raising a family with her husband Yomi, through hard work, struggle, and the grace of God, Funmi’s Nigerian Restaurant has become a gem in the local restaurant scene. “I’ve never had a sous chef,” she explains to her guests. “For the past eight years, I’ve been the only one cooking. Phil 4:13–’I can do all things through him who strengthens me’–is my watchword.”
Along with her personal success story, Aderinokun encourages the girls surrounding her to have confidence. “I don’t mean an arrogant confidence like, ‘Who does she think she is?” No, it’s, ‘Who does she know she belongs to?’ She adds, “And when you face challenges in life, realize it’s because you have God’s calling on your life.”
The girls are attentive as she combines wisdom with her personal stories of overcoming, generously folding in Scripture throughout. Both Aderinokun’s cooking and her hope shine through and warm her guests on this chilly November day.