Recently, an intimate family portrait made the rounds across several media outlets, from Eater Detroit to The Detroit News. In the photograph, Mamba Hamissi feeds his wife and business partner, Nadia Nijimbere, a bite of home-cooked Burundian food. Both smile radiantly, perched on the edge of a black leather couch in their Detroit home.
It’s representative of the warm and welcoming atmosphere of Baobab Fare, the couple’s up-and-coming business. Expected to open in the spring, Baobab Fare will be a restaurant, marketplace, and juice bar, selling an array of food and products from East Africa. It also has the distinct mission of serving as a safe haven for immigrants, refugees, and indigent survivors of persecution, providing employment opportunities and a chance to contribute to Detroit.
Similar photographs to the one taken in Nijimbere and Hamissi’s home are all across Baobab Fare’s social media, depicting comfort food, Detroit pride, and the family behind the business.
These are the types of moments photographer, social entrepreneur, and Detroiter, Juan Carlos Dueweke-Perez, captures. With just a snapshot, an entire narrative begins to unravel.
The man behind the camera is the founder and owner of Featherstone Moments, a trilingual and immigrant-owned marketing agency seeking equity for minority communities. Beyond the inbound digital marketing services Featherstone Moments provides, including strategy, social media execution, public relations, and website design, the agency strives to “help people who are also helping people.”
As an immigrant and person of color himself, Dueweke-Perez understands where his clients are coming from and meets them where they are. He taps into empathy, leveraging his skillset to share the unique stories and perspectives of those he works with, like Hamissi and Nijimbere of Baobab Fare and others. Sometimes this happens through a single photograph.
“When you see that kind of picture, you know it’s Juan Carlos,” Hamissi says.
A tale of two cities
Dueweke-Perez’s entrepreneurial journey began at 11 years old, selling cheesecakes with his parents in Southwest Detroit. After school, he’d make the cheesecakes with his mom and then drive around with his dad to sell them door-to-door.
“I sort of became the face of the cheesecake selling business in Southwest Detroit,” he says.
Dueweke-Perez’s family moved to the United States in 1999 from Guadalajara, Mexico when he was 9 years old. He found stark differences between the two cities. In Guadalajara, the houses were close together. In Detroit, they were divided. He remembers the walkways that separated one house from the next on Livernois Avenue.
“It was parallel to the way that I felt,” he says.
Although Southwest Detroit had a significant immigrant community at the time, as it still does, this wasn’t the same as being someone from the area who spoke English and grew up there. But with the company of those like him — brown, immigrant, and undocumented — he found community in Southwest.
In 2013, Dueweke-Perez received his DACA approval and began working at Starbucks, where he fostered relationships with customers, hoping to one day open up a coffee shop of his own. He served a custom drink called the Featherstone — a soy latte with Chamomile and Earl Gray tea with a little bit of vanilla syrup — to those he emotionally connected with.
Story by Nushrat Rahman
Photos by Nick Hagen
Read the original story: Model D