No candy for you if you’re black, but the candy bowl is full if you’re white.
That’s what the worker at the Strand Cafe, 492 Nostrand Avenue, in the heart of Bedford-Stuyvesant told young trick or treaters who stopped into the eatery that serves the latest in ice brewed coffee in the historically black neighborhood that is becoming increasingly gentrified.
According to Oma Holloway, the much respected co-chair of Community Board 3, and the chair of the CB3 Education and Youth Committee, she was in the cafe with fellow CB 3 board member Michael Catlyn in the late afternoon awaiting their orders when two young African-American kids came in trick or treating.
The merchant behind the counter told the two middle-schoolers that the store didn’t have any trick or treat candy so the kids politely left. A few minutes later, a young African-American mom came in with her two kids trick or treating and the barista again informed them they didn’t have any candy. Then two younger African-American girls came in trick or treating and they were also told the store did not participate in the holiday.
Holloway said that finally a white mother came in with her two kids trick or treating and this time the barista took out a jar of candy from behind the councter and started doling out sweets to the kids.
At this point Holloway and Catlyn got up and approached the barista. “You got to be kidding me,” she recalled telling him. “Little black kids walk in and you don’t have candy for them, but you have candy for the white kids. This is unacceptable, here or anywhere.”
At this point, both Holloway and Catlyn walked out of the cafe, and she then came back and took a picture of the storefront. She also got her 11-year-old daughter and a few older kids in the neighborhood to stand in front of the story and start giving candy out to all who walked by trick or treating.
When KCP called the cafe for an explanation there was no answer, but to Holloway the scene is increasingly unfolding among trendy shop owners moving into the neighborhood.
“I’m on the community board and I understand he doesn’t have to participate [in Halloween festivities], but to do something so blatantly discriminatory, this is not acceptable and as a patron I’m not accepting it,” said Holloway, noting that none of the African-American kids that came in trick or treating acted rambunctious or disrespectful in any way.
“There’s too much stress about new businesses coming in and not treating us right. There’s so many issues with these businesses and gentrification,” she added.
Holloway said that rather than react with anger, she took the incident as a opportiunity to start educating some of the new people and businesses coming in.
“There needs to be a dialogue and the [NYC] Commission on Human Rights should come into communities. If you’re new to the community there needs to be a level of respect on both ends, and we have to start holding businesses accountable on all levels and if they’re uncomfortable about doing that it’s a problem,” she said.
City Councilmember Robert Cornegy Jr. (D-Bedford-Stuyvesant, Northern Crown Heights), who both represents the district and is chair of the Council’s Small Business Committee, did not respond to KCP about the incident at post time.