Childhood friends, Kurt Evans and Muhammad Abdul-Hadid, have teamed up to establish Down North Pizza, a restaurant in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania that exclusively employs those who were previously incarcerated in a mission to give them an opportunity to turn their life around and also reduce the recidivism rate in Black communities.
Evans, a chef who is known for his End Mass Incarceration Dinner series, has always been making efforts in giving back to the community. He and his lifelong friend Abdul-Hadid decided to partner up to incorporate their love for pizza and their passion to help others by launching Down North Pizza on March 2021.
Aside from serving delicious Detroit-style pizza, Evans and Abdul-Hadi is also serving the community through the pizzeria. When they saw how hard it is for incarcerated people to get job opportunities after getting out of prison, they decided to only hire former felons to help them. It also reportedly reduces recidivism rate, or the tendency of a convicted criminal to reoffend upon release.
“We just want to meet people where they’re at and help them along the way,” Evans told Good Morning America. “It was very important for us to help these people coming from the system and break the cycle of mass incarceration.”
They currently have eight employees who underwent training in the kitchen to carry out their tasks well. Some employees who needed short-term housing units were also provided six months free rent at the upstairs apartment, allowing them to save funds for permanent housing.
Their chef, Michael Carter, is a former felon who had years of prior experience in the kitchen. He is thankful for the opportunity given to him. He said, “I fit the criteria because of my own story. I was locked up in 2015, about two weeks before my youngest daughter was born. I was happy to be a part of the mission and be able to push the line for social justice.”
More than that, the pizzeria itself proved to be a success. They actually sold 800 pizzas in three days and people still continue to line up to show their support to the business. Evans and Abdul-Hadi hope to inspire other Black businesses to look for ways to give back to their communities.
For more information about Down North Pizza, visit DownNorthPizza.com