Two African-American women are fighting back against what they claim was a racial profiling incident at a restaurant in Harlem, where gentrification has changed the community that was once dubbed the “Black Mecca.”
“It was a public embarrassment and humiliating to us and to everyone else who was in the restaurant,” Tara Fitzgibbon, one of the women, told the New York Daily News on Tuesday. The women filed a complaint earlier this month with New York City’s human rights commission.
Fitzgibbon and her friend, Tamara Young, went to Angel of Harlem restaurant in February. While ordering drinks, a manager snatched the menus from their hands and accused them of previously skipping out of the eatery without paying their tab.
They told the manager that they had never been to the restaurant before, but the manager insisted that he had surveillance footage that proves otherwise. Fitzgibbons viewed the video, but the woman on tape looked nothing like her.
“What, do all Black people look alike to you?” Young asked. That angered the manager, who became “violently defensive,” the complaint stated.
The newspaper identified the owner as Anahi Angelone, who did not respond on Tuesday to requests from the Daily News for comments.
As Harlem continues to gentrify, Black-owned businesses are struggling to keep their doors open, the Harlem Business Alliance told NewsOne. The organization advocates and nurtures black-owned business and has been a cornerstone in the community for three decades.
“Our businesses have been dying so fast that we can’t keep up with the count, and there aren’t enough new ones to replace them,” said Walter Edwards, Harlem Business Alliance chairman. “Many of us are doing battle, rolling up our sleeves to make sure Black people still have a piece of the action.”
Fitzgibbon and Young are seeking “hundreds of thousands” in compensation for emotional stress and embarrassment, their attorney Richard St. Paul told the newspaper. They hope the complaint will prompt the owner to retrain her staff.
“This shouldn’t have to happen to anyone else,” Fitzgibbon added.