The historically Black and brown neighborhoods of New York City are no strangers to gentrification. Still, some people in Harlem — a community that’s been all but synonymous with Black people — were caught off-guard this week when they saw a poster advertising the impending arrival of a new restaurant called Chalmette Fusion Bistro.
The poster showed four young white people enjoying a meal at the eatery under a placard that said “The New Soul of Harlem” was “opening soon.” The smiles on the faces of the restaurant’s patrons not only suggested an obliviousness to the decided lack of diversity in a community known for multi-culturalism but they also presented a glaring contrast to two words hovering above their heads: “new soul.”
The questions came fast and furious after a photo of the poster was tweeted Wednesday afternoon. The since-deleted tweet said the poster was displayed on the corner of 139th street and Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard — just across the street from the historic Striver’s Row neighborhood — and was accompanied by a hashtag in all caps: “#DISRESEPCTFUL.”
Again, white people living in and visiting Harlem aren’t new. Neither is the idea of white-owned restaurants or restaurants frequented by white people. But amid a national racial reckoning and push for diversity and inclusion, the poster came across as tone-deaf at best and offensive at worst.
However, a closer examination showed that the poster achieved the outrage that it was apparently — because it isn’t real. Chalmette Fusion Bistro is actually a fictional restaurant destined for the big or small screen. It all turned out to be one big nothing burger — kind of.
“This fake movie poster in the doorway of Ponty Bistro in Harlem at the corner of 139th Street got people upset today,” tweeted Harlem Bespoke, an organization that blogs about all-things Harlem. “This is apparently part of a film set since the restaurant stated they were closed this week for Hollywood stuff.”
A quick visit to Ponty Bistro’s Instagram showed the restaurant was closing Wednesday, Thursday and Friday “due to a TV/film shoot.”
There was no reference to the poster, but the disclosure may have prompted a huge, collective sigh from native Harlemites who have seen the steady whitening of their community over the last couple of decades.
The next logical question is who is behind the production?
Either way, the owners of the Ponty Bistro are Black, according to the restaurant’s website, which means a Black-owned business is getting paid.
The poster was reminiscent of a skit from the “Chappelle Show” or “SNL” or some other sketch comedy.
However, gentrification is no laughing matter — especially to those who are displaced because of it. Affordable housing is becoming increasingly rare in Harlem, which started being populated with Black people in the 1900s after a plan for upper-class white people to live there didn’t work out. More than 100 years later, the reverse is happening.
Watch Gentrifier Whitesplain Why He Wants D.C. To Lose Some Of Its Black Culture
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I’ve been listening to the go-go outside of this store since I was a student at Banneker HS in the early 2000s. How dare they move into their luxury building and try to sue people who have been here doing the same thing for decades? Gentrification at its finest. #DontMuteDC— Kara Danielle (@KaraDanielleDC) April 8, 2019
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(1/3) I talked to activist and radio host @guerillartist, who was kind enough to share his insights on the meaning of Go-Go music to the black community in DC, the rapid gentrification its experiencing and the political forces behind the push to shut down the local gem pic.twitter.com/5dQ81ZYyAL— Alex Rubinstein (@RealAlexRubi) April 9, 2019
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Notallofus. This older white lady moved to U in 2009. When my new husband wants to close the windows on weekend nights, I inform him that the noise and music are how we know we live in the city. (Of course we are asleep by midnight....)— Naomi Paiss (@NaomiPaiss) April 8, 2019
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I wish gentrifiers would get over themselves. Nobody wants you and your lack of cultural sensibility. https://t.co/oLtH4U12RH— Brittney Cooper (@ProfessorCrunk) April 8, 2019
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Just left Georgia Avenue and there was no Go-Go playing (due to new resident complaints) but there was a lot of other loud music coming from shops with mostly white patrons. This is the quiet violence of gentrification. #DontMuteDC— Renee Scott (@_nishawn) April 7, 2019
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“Without go-go...Washington loses part of its soul and continues its steady march toward becoming richer, whiter—less funktified.” #DontMuteDC Ronald Moten: Don't Mute DC's Go-Go Music and Culture - Sign the petition! https://t.co/OYULNNj0YM via @Change— Sasha CooperMorrison (@sashirpcv) April 8, 2019
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CULTURE CLASH: Protesters are demanding the Shaw Metro PCS be allowed to bring its outdoor Go-Go music back after @TMobile reportedly reacted to a neighbor's threat to sue. More at 10 & 11. @fox5dc pic.twitter.com/dssuTXeX1w— Evan Lambert (@EvanLambertTV) April 9, 2019
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Here’s a video I made near the Metro PCS store @ 7th & Florida NW with the DC go-go crankin back in May 2018. A resident of the Shay luxury apartments that opened in 2015 threatened the store w/ a lawsuit, although it had been airing go-go since 95. Now the go-go is stopped pic.twitter.com/TWWxtCaW3w— Steve Kiviat (@SteveKiviat) April 9, 2019
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If your friend moves into another area, brags about how it’s trendy, and the history and character, and then complains and threatens a business that is 100% a part of the culture, call them out for being colonizers. #DontMuteDC https://t.co/Q0V9zQYqeH— Angus McCann (@angusmc90) April 9, 2019
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A couple years ago, The Shay had a giant billboard with a blonde, blue-eyed woman’s face and the slogan “She has arrived.” She was literally staring down at the Black folks at the the bus stop. Trying to find the pic I took. #DontMuteDC— Carimah Townes (@CarimahWheat) April 9, 2019
‘New Soul Of Harlem’: Restaurant Ad Showing Only White Patrons Sparks Outrage, Briefly was originally published on newsone.com