I don't understand how a black person elected to the New York City Council representing Bedford Stuyvesant could hide from this issue:
A Bed-Stuy café is accused of denying Halloween candies to black kids and then boldly offering candies to white ones. That this happened seems not to be in dispute. The owner of the Strand café on Nostrand Avenue near Halsey St. apologized for the incident. He identified himself online as a "brown Asian" and said the barista was an immigrant who did not know better.
The story of the discriminating candy man is now all over the country, indeed, the world. The Root seems to have broken the story. It's been on Newsweek. The Daily News. The Atlanta Voice. Good grief, even the British Daily Mail.
But writers seem to have had no luck getting Bed-Stuy Councilman Robert Cornegy to say something about the mess. Even the Kings County Politics website, which diligently reports the goings-on in central Brooklyn, said that City Councilmember Robert Cornegy Jr. . . . did not respond to KCP about the incident at post time."
Hoping to meet with the café owner and chat with him, I went there on Saturday and Sunday. I just wanted to learn about him and his feelings about Bed-Stuy. Heck, almost by definition a brown Asian immigrant can't be a white nationalist. But the store was closed both days. I'm kind of thinking he's going to go out of business. People are really angry. I understand he did go to a meeting with Community Board 3 officials on Saturday to try to clear the air. I heard he was humble and contrite.
When I was outside the Strand Sunday evening, John Joyner, who says he's challenging Cornegy in the election tomorrow (Tuesday, the 7th), was demonstrating with a group of Bed-Stuy activists. They posed for a picture and then talked with people walking along Nostrand Avenue. Everyone who spoke with them expressed irritation, even anger.
By the way, at the Dominican beauty parlor next to Strand, I spoke with a dark-complexioned beautician who said she had stopped going to the café even before Halloween. She said the baristas didn't give her the smiles and warm greetings they gave young white customers.
Regarding the protesters there on Sunday, some are viewed by mainstream politicians as radicals. Possibly Cornegy wouldn't want to be associated with them. But it seems he would at least issue a press release or make a public statement of some kind about gentrification and the complicated but related issue of race.
Some see this as a wake-up moment in the community. Long-time black residents are being priced out steadily by increasing rents. A somewhat similar episode to this one occurred in July, and it really fired up black residents. That was when the white owner of the nearby Summerhill restaurant boasted about supposed bullet holes in her wall. It seems she was trying romanticize (and capitalize on) Bed-Stuy's reputation as a violent neighborhood. There were loud protests.
Two influential Bed-Stuy residents told me that, perhaps, Councilman Cornegy doesn't want to get too involved here because he wants to become the next Speaker of the New York City Council. And that means he would not want to be viewed as too black or radical.
I hadn't thought about that. But then I read a New York Times article from last week. It was about the competition for City Council Speaker. The Times said this regarding Cornegy:
“I don’t want to hang this on ethnicity; I don’t want to be the black speaker,” Mr. Cornegy, 52, said in a telephone interview from San Sebastián, Spain, where he (was) . . . traveling last week as part of a delegation of elected officials to study worker cooperatives . . .
Community Board 3 of Bed-Stuy is supposed to be holding its monthly meeting this evening. Perhaps the Strand topic will come up. If there are heroes in this hyper-local urban drama, they might be Oma Holloway and Michael Catlyn. According to the article in The Root, they were in the café waiting for food on Halloween and saw and heard all that was said to have occurred. They were, let's say, a bit irritated and made their feelings known, inside the Strand and outside. Holloway is identified in the Root article as co-chair of Community Board 3. Catlyn is identified as a fellow board member.
It was reportedly on YelpYelp (which posts online comments about businesses) that the Strand café owner last week apologized and gave his version of what happened. Yelp seems to have taken down that post, as well as others related to this controversy. (I saved what I saw of the owner's post and put it here.)
By the way, Joyner says he's a "write-in" candidate in tomorrow's elections. That means he's not an official candidate and anyone voting for him has to write his name down and submit the ballot. Write-in candidates aren't likely to win races. But young Joyner seems to be ambitious. I found this article about him on Bkreader. It was published last year and had the headline "Despite Widespread Opposition, Some Bed-Stuy Residents say, ‘Let Shelter Stay’."