Monday, June 15, 2009

Harlem Protests Against American Apparel

On my way back from Melba's Restaurant (the chicken and Egg Nog Waffles are SUPERB), I was walking down 125th street, and as I came past American Apparel, I saw these Red, Black and Green flags waving and a large group of protesters shouting in front of the store. I have learned during my times at NY to just keep walking and never take any of the flyers that people are handing out on the street. But of course, since this had something to do with a store that I enjoy going into, I couldn't help but to read one of the flyers that fell onto the ground..

The protest was against American Apparel because on the day Honoring Malcom X, all stores on 125th street were closed, except for American Apparel. This, in the eyes of the Demonstrators, was unacceptable and warranted this protest. I am all about freedom of expression and protesting for what you believe in, but this wasn't a battle that I would choose to fight. It should be the choice of the company whether or not they want to close for a non-federal observation of a man (a very intelligent man who was the voice of a generation no matter how much you agreed/disagreed with him). If a protest was needed, I think they should have focused their energy on petitions and contacting their community leaders about making Malcom X Day a Federal Holiday. Not sure if that ever will happen, due to his relationship with the government during his time.

Speaking of.. does it seem bad that I really wanted to go back into the store and buy the hoodie that I wanted? Since I am all about a movement, I just walked past so that I wouldn't get egged for selling out... what sense in damaging my fine wardrobe just for a hoodie that I can't wear until September...

What do you think? No, not about me not going to buy my hoodie.. But do you think the protesters are justified for what they believe? Should American Apparel have followed the established protocol of all the other businesses on the same street?


  1. It seems to me that this article is less about "are the protesters justified" and more about you feeling conflicted about a) not identifying with the protest and 2) wanting desperately to patronize American Apparel. I think what is sad about this situation is that gentrification can allow people to move into historically Black spaces that have political significance without any allegiance to this history or simple acknowledgement. Why did American Apparel find 125th street appealing to open a store there? Were they waiting for the flood of whites to invade the space? If the local community there has a tradition of honoring Malcolm X, why wouldn't American Apparel follow suit? Doesn't this show that they are not concerned about the local community, their traditions or even their patronage? From my understanding Jewish neighborhoods in NY are able to close down streets on certain occasions. You can't even drive on days they deem holy. I don't think this is too much to ask on 125th. I also think its a problem to tell people where they should be expending their energy. Clearly, we all can use our energy for greater causes. In fact, it is highly probable that this group has in fact employed multiple strategies including petitioning for a national holiday. But who are we to say, especially when you are fixing to expend your energy buying a hoodie! That's cool and all. But I think it speaks volumes about the respect of local communities in the face of gentrification and whitening of spaces that have a particular historical significance to Blacks and the lack of power these local communities often have when "folks" move into these spaces. How honorable it would have been for American Apparel to stand in solidarity with the local community and other businesses on 125th (of all places) to observe this day in honor of Dr. King. What a powerful message to send to the local community and people of color. It suggests to me, that nothing is sacred, especially when it comes to ordinary folk; especially when it comes to Black folk.

  2. I meant to say "in honor of Malcolm X!!!!" Remember people had to fight and petition for years and years to get King recognized on a national scale.

  3. Excellent comment! I really appreciate what you said, and you made some very good points. Of course, I love my hoodies, but that wasn't the main point. I merely wanted to spark some discussion about an issue that you probably wouldn't have heard about because clearly there was no other media source out there covering the event. Because of the lack of coverage, I really wanted to hear what my readers had to say, and I think you summed it up very well. Speaking of "flood of whites" I do find it a bit odd that an American Apparel would be right 125th street in Harlem - I wonder who their target audience is


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