Diamound Brown doesn't like to talk about her five years in prison or the 18 months she spent grieving the loss of her son after he died in the Woodmore bus crash, or the dozens and dozens of people she has helped and continues to help since then, but once she does, the passion and caring inside of her comes out, and it eventually overwhelms her.
She fought back the tears as long as she could, but as she talked about selling her house in Chattanooga and buying a smaller one in Cleveland, Tennessee, and opening Chatty's Restaurant in Avondale in order to help the people in the community there, the emotions overcame her and the tears fell.
"It's very hard to succeed in this area, partly because I'm not from here, but I'm going to keep fighting so hard to keep up everything. I've already been through the hardest things in life, so it has to get better. I've been in prison. I lost a child. I've slept on floors. It can't get any worse, so I know there are going to be more positive things for me."
For Brown, those positive things usually mean doing something for somebody else. Whether it's putting nearly 30 people to work or buying coats for two young boys she saw walking the street in front of Chatty's earlier this week when the temperatures dropped into the 20s, she wants to help.
"I've got two boys, 14 and 15, on my payroll. Boys off the streets. I'd see them breaking into cars and just hanging out. Now they wash dishes, sweep the floors, whatever. That motivates me to help out more. These kids are looking to us and they will be taking care of us one day. I want them to have better than what I had growing up."
Brown said her mother has battled drugs her whole life, and it was drugs that sent Brown to prison for conspiracy to distribute cocaine. She got out on July 14 in 2016 and on Nov. 21, her 6-year-old son D'Myunn Lamar Brown was riding the bus home when it crashed, killing him and five other children.
"I couldn't afford a car," she said. "That's why he was on the bus. I became discouraged and stopped going to college and working. I stopped everything for about a year and half 'cause I was grieving."
Since then, she has used the settlement money she received from the bus company to start the DLB Foundation and start her business. She uses both to help others by buying clothes, food or school supplies for people in her community or even cars for family members. Every night, the staff at Chatty's fixes plates of food for the homeless people who live across the street and once a week she feeds 20-25 people in need inside the restaurant.
She also employs around 27 people.
She does it all with her own money, she said, and she does it seven days a week while caring for her 18-month-old daughter, Amelia Armour.
"Even though we didn't have anything when I was growing up, I grew up in a very giving household. My grandmama said to give is the way you get blessed. I've been raised like that. Giving is receiving. I remember the times I couldn't get a ride or had to catch a CARTA [bus]."
Brown owns the building on Milne Street in the Avondale area. It had previously been home to several night clubs and become regarded as a nuisance in the community, something Brown said she was not aware of when she bought. She is trying to convince neighbors of her good intentions.
"I sometimes have more bilingual people eating here than my own race, and I think that is good. It means I'm blossoming and becoming a better business. I know the reputation the neighborhood has, but I hope people will accept this restaurant for what it is and not just judge the community."
She has had to put several hundred thousand dollars into it to fix the plumbing, electrical and roof issues. She has also purchased several lots near her restaurant and plans to level two of them for more parking when she can afford it.
She recently got a permit from the city in order to sell beer, "because that's what my customers tell me they want. It's not a nightclub, and I don't want that. They just want to have a beer with their meal."
The Beer Board meeting was held virtually via a Zoom and when the board approved her application, she jumped up from her chair and squealed, eliciting claps and cheers of approval from the board members. She said several members have been to Chatty's and continue to be supportive.
"They were so nice and helpful and I just felt like they were all on 'Team Diamound.'"
Board member Chris Keene is one of those.
"She has so much energy, and passion," he said. "She really wants to help that area she is in. That place is immaculate and she must have 15 people working for her and everyone is so nice. She is a remarkable lady."
Brown said the restaurant and everything she does is to honor her son.
"I knew my passion is cooking. It is something me and my son did every Sunday together. He was passionate about my cooking and being successful."
Contact Barry Courter at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6354.
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