Bottomless Mimosas and Calling Out Bigots: How Brunch Just Got Real in NYC
Weekend brunch is usually the time for Americans to kick back and enjoy a mimosa and a slice of a savory veggie frittata (watch out for those spiking egg prices) with friends or family. But on Sunday, diners in several New York City and Oakland, California, restaurants got a hefty serving of anti–police violence activism alongside their meals.
Dozens of participants in the grassroots Black Brunch movement walked into restaurants that tend to serve a predominantly white customer base. The activists weren’t there to chow down on the frittata. Instead they spent four-and-a-half minutes reading aloud the names of black people who have been killed in recent months by law enforcement officers. That amount of time is symbolic of the four-and-a-half hours that 18-year-old Michael Brown’s body was left in the street after he was shot and killed by police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson, Missouri, last August.
All this might sound irritating when all you’re thinking about is eating, but according to the founder of the Black Brunch movement, America needs to get a little uncomfortable.
“Black brunch is saying no business as usual. Every day, black people are murdered by police, and millions of other things too,” Black Brunch’s founder, Oakland-based Wazi Maret Davis, told Spook Magazine. “We’re not going to let people sit around and pretend this isn’t happening. One part of the violence that black folks face is about simply being able to exist and be. We can’t just exist and be in public space because we’re thought of as threatening.”
Davis participated in several of the protests that took place in early December in the aftermath of the nonindictment of NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo in the July choking death of Staten Island resident Eric Garner. Davis wanted to do more, however, than march in the street alongside like-minded anti-violence advocates. He and the collective of activists who helped him launch Black Brunch took inspiration from the sit-ins of the civil rights movement. “We decided that we’d go into communities where people do not necessarily think about our pain and take up space there,” said Davis.
In December, the inaugural group of Black Brunch participants headed to Rockridge, a gentrified neighborhood in Oakland that isn’t “very inclusive to a lot of black folks and people of color,” according to Davis. He believes that communities like Rockridge, which are home to people who are white and more well-off—brunch eaters—are able to easily ignore the plight of black America. “So we say no. We’re going to take up space in your community, let you know what’s happening outside this. We exist, and we’re here,” said Davis.
Since then, the movement has spread across the nation thanks to social media. This past weekend, protesters in New York City targeted popular Manhattan restaurants such as Mailiano, Barking Dog, Resto, and Grand Central. Participants also tweeted photos of themselves with the hashtag #BlackBrunchNYC.
In response, on Sunday and Monday, supporters tweeted their appreciation using the hashtag #ThankYouBlackBrunch.
“#thankyoublackbrunch for inviting us all to stand with you for peace and justice,” wrote Twitter user Andrew Gordon-Kirsch.
“#blackbrunchnyc is a great idea, entering everyday spaces, spaces of gentrification. u can see diners foaming at the mouth. like the 50s,” wrote Twitter user SubMedina.
Critics of the movement have trolled the #BlackBrunchNYC hashtag—and many of the comments have been full of racist vitriol.
“#BlackBrunchNYC served hot and daily at Ossining, Rikers Island and Sing-Sing,” wrote the Twitter account Defend Wall Street.
“#blackbrunchnyc New Protest Strategy: Disrupt the meals of the very people who have to get up for work tomorrow to keep your EBT Card full,” wrote Twitter user LibsBeLike.
Former NYPD Officer John Carrillo (he describes himself as a “ranting investigative blogger”) tweeted a photo of himself aiming a gun. The caption: “I’m really enjoying these Eggs Benedict so move along now. #BlackBrunchNYC.”
As disturbing as they are, comments like these aren’t scaring Black Brunch supporters. Instead, they’re proving that the movement is needed.
“#thankyoublackbrunch for putting further white racist bs on display, but most of all, for showing the cont power & strength of black action,” wrote Twitter user Lex.
According to the Black Brunch NYC Twitter account, more protests are in the works. So if you’re into weekend brunch, perhaps your next outing will have some anti–police brutality awareness on the menu.