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Embracing a new chapter: My journey with Long Beach Black Restaurant Week


Qiana Mafnas is the co-owner and founder, along with her husband Ian, of Axiom Kitchen Smoked Meats & BBQ. To read the story behind their business, check out Brian Addison’s feature on them for Eater LA—and even more, listen to her own words here as she becomes the leader of Long Beach Black Restaurant Week, which will take place Jan. 21 through 28 in 2024.

In a world where every action has the potential to ignite a passionate debate, sometimes it’s the quiet and thoughtful decisions that speak the loudest.

My name is Qiana Mafnas and I am the co-owner of Axiom Kitchen, a BBQ restaurant in Long Beach, as well as the executive director of our nonprofit, Noah’s Arc Foundation—and most recently, the new leader behind Long Beach Black Restaurant Week (LBBRW).

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It’s that last part that is the pivotal moment that led to this new chapter.

LBBRW, as many know, came under scrutiny with a widely publicized incident, one that sparked a city-wide dialogue and garnered many different opinions and reactions. 

Following the incident, the former owner—a white woman—took a sincere and necessary step to entrust LBBRW to not only a member of the Black community but to a member of the restaurant community. Our collaboration history, including events like the tamales festival and LBBRW, gave her confidence in my suitability to lead. Her experience with the Long Beach BBQ Festival offered invaluable insights into the organization’s future, providing me with a glimpse of my future role as the new steward of this remarkable event.

However, as the new owner of LBBRW, my focus is firmly on the steps ahead; on progress; on community. And given this, I don’t want to dwell on the transgressions of the past.

Instead, I am committed to what truly matters: Supporting and promoting the Black-owned restaurants in Long Beach. These establishments are the lifeblood of our community—and they deserve the exposure and recognition they need to weather these difficult times and keep their doors open

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As the co-owner of Axiom Kitchen and the organizer of the Long Beach BBQ Festival, I have witnessed the passion, creativity, and resilience of Black-owned restaurants in our city. We have faced numerous challenges, from economic downturns to the ongoing global pandemic, and yet we continue to serve delicious food and contribute to the cultural fabric of Long Beach.

My vision for LBBRW is clear: It’s about shining a spotlight on these incredible restaurants, celebrating their unique flavors, and connecting them with the wider community; Black food, as with all food, deserves to be shared and loved by all. I want to provide a platform where these establishments can thrive, where their stories can be told, and where their success becomes our collective achievement.

What’s striking about this transition is the quiet manner in which it unfolded. I preferred to keep a low profile, understanding that community service thrives on forging connections, strengthening local businesses, and elevating our community.

Considering the controversies surrounding this event, it was crucial for both the former owner and me to ensure I had the essential resources and training to proficiently manage this role before announcing the change publicly. She has willingly passed on every aspect without retaining any involvement, including the active transfer of the website and all related assets. She is taking this step to completely disassociate herself from the organization—and she deeply understands the sentiments within the community regarding the previous incident. Even though she won’t be a part of it moving forward, her ultimate wish is for LBBRW to thrive and succeed.

In a world where we often focus on the noise of public discourse, this transition serves as a reminder of the power of quiet, meaningful actions. It’s a story of a community coming together, of leadership evolving, and of a commitment to a cause that transcends individual recognition.

As LBBRW moves forward under my new leadership, it carries with it the spirit of unity, dedication, and a shared passion for the community it serves. Together, we will uplift our black-owned restaurants, ensuring they thrive in these challenging times.

Qiana Manfas
Qiana Manfas
Qiana Mafnas is the co-owner and founder, along with her husband Ian, of Axiom BBQ & Smoked Meats in Long Beach. A lifelong lover of food, she left her career in social services to embark on her first small business with Ian and has since garnered a loyal following seeking some of the city's best barbecue.



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