If you could use one word to describe Atlanta, what word would you use?
Talented? Atlanta is home to some of the most incredible artists that have contributed to hip-hop and black culture. Whether you are talking about Outkast, TI, Goodie Mobb, Killer Mike, or Jeezy, Atlanta has no shortage of talent.
Black excellence is “a thing” here. People don’t call Atlanta “The Black Hollywood” for nothing. Our ancestors would be so proud to see that a state that was once the heart of slavery has transformed into a Black Mecca. We went from plantations to sprawling mansions. Slaves to entrepreneurs. We went from demanding a seat at the table to building tables ourselves. Atlanta has singlehandedly changed the landscape of what it means to be black in America.
Atlanta is home to diversity. It doesn’t matter your race or where you fall on the LGBTQ spectrum, Atlanta has a place for you. There is no place for hate in Atlanta.
It’s no surprise though that every so often, some institution in Atlanta rears its ugly head and reminds us of an ugly part of our history. While grabbing drinks after work recently at Establishment, a restaurant in the heart of Midtown, I noticed a sign that read “Dave Reed Presents: A Slave’s Greed”. Literally in the middle of drinks, I noticed that white waiters passed the sign, pointing and laughing. I wasn’t amused. In fact, I was offended.
I immediately called the manager to my table, who blew me off. It’s a playwright the owner is in, he said. Google doesn’t lie. It took me all of 30 seconds to figure out that the owner wasn’t Dave Reed, his name is James H. As I’m sifting through Google validating blatant lies, employees from the restaurant approached me, verifying that it wasn’t a playwright and it was indeed a racist joke. Despite several requests to have the sign removed from the restaurant’s own employees, the sign was left up in plain view because most of the staff found it funny.
I called the manager over again, demanding to understand the joke. He said it was a screenplay that two of the staff members wrote (he must have forgotten his first lie) and he apologized if I was offended. He had no more to offer outside of a half baked apology. At least he went to the board and erased it, finally.
It’s not lost on me that the restaurant’s name is Establishment. There is irony in the fact that the restaurant has rustic chic, antebellum-influenced décor, which is code for “slave themed ornamentation”. What is lost on me, however, is how a restaurant this racist continues to exist in one of the most diverse spaces in the city.
What do you want? has been their ongoing question to me over the last week as I have used my platform to lambaste them. No, I don’t want money. Money changes nothing. No, I don’t want an apology. “Sorry” doesn’t change the ugly ways of their hearts. I’m a writer. I want to write. I want to write about my experience, how it made me feel and I want to tell anyone who engages with my platform about a racist establishment that exists in the heart of one of the most diverse places in the world. I want them to feel the horror I felt every time my story is shared. Social media is powerful and words matter.
There is no place in Atlanta for spaces that go against the core of what it means to be from Atlanta. I wonder if they still find their joke funny.