Walking out of Alberta Street Pub in Portland last weekend I spied the poster tacked to a phone poll: Support Black-Owned Restaurants August 29 and 30 and every day after that.
It’s the endeavor of Portland businesswoman Bertha Pearl, who read about last year’s Black Restaurants Day in the Bay Area and decided to launch the same in Portland—for a weekend. “With the way things are happening in the world with #BlackLivesMatter…supporting a black business is great,” Pearl told The Oregonian. She built a Facebook event page and over 50 black-owned restaurants signed on, sit-down spots to food trucks. One, in a stroke of satisfying irony, is Clyde’s Prime Rib on Sandy, which occupies the site of the former Coon Chicken Inn—from 1931 to 1949 home of fried chicken and grotesque racist caricature.
Seattle had a Coon Chicken Inn too, on the Old Bothell Highway in Lake City, in the 1930s and ’40s. To my knowledge Seattle doesn’t yet have an organized Black Restaurants Day or Weekend, a la Oakland/San Francisco’s or Portland’s. (Correct me if I’m wrong.)
What Seattle has had, pretty far under the radar, has been a number of the restaurant protests pioneered in New York and Oakland as #BlackBrunch, in which Black Lives Matter protesters target brunch restaurants—presumably, as overwhelmingly white symbols of complacency and privilege. Photos and video of these events reinforce that sense, as there’s no way to not look out of touch and entitled while sipping a mimosa next to a group holding Black Brunch Seattle placards and reading the names of black victims of police brutality. Agrodolce, Cafe Pettirosso, Norm’s Eatery and Ale House, Cactus, Duke’s, and Alki Cafe have been among those targeted in Seattle this past spring; if you know of others, holler.
Has #BlackBrunchSeattle been a success? Depends on how you define it. Yes it’s begun conversations—but in Seattle, they’ve been awfully quiet ones. Have minds been opened and changed? Impossible to know—particularly via comments sections. “How do we call people in even as we call them out?” asked state senator Pramila Jayapal in her terrific Stranger essay after protesters interrupted a Bernie Sanders speech a few weeks ago—and I can’t help thinking about this in the context of #BlackBrunch.
“But in the end, if we want to win for ALL of us on racial, economic, and social justice issues, we need multiple sets of tactics, working together,” Jayapal writes. “Some are disruptive tactics. Some are loving tactics. Some are truth-telling tactics. Some can only be taken on by white people. Some can only be taken on by people of color.”
Brunch isn’t the enemy; in fact, we here at Seattle Met sorta love brunch. But neither are the protesters who are interrupting brunches to visualize the point about complacency around the racial injustice that’s been ignored too long. Like Jayapal says: multiple sets of tactics.
Bring on Seattle Black-Owned Restaurants Weekend. Until then, Portland’s starts day after tomorrow.