Four women go nuclear on Cedric French Bistro in Harlem, question now is where do we go from here?

Have you heard the news recently? A major fight/disagreement broke out February 4 at Cedric French Bistro and Bar in Harlem between the owners of Cedric’s and four customers, who happen to be of African-American descent. To make matters worse, the next day or so an aggressive media campaign lead by three of the four women began immediately aimed at ousting Cedric’s entirely from the Village of Harlem. If you don’t know what I am talking about, you must not read one of the six or seven New York media outlets who covered the altercation or you are not on Facebook or on Twitter. ‘Cause if you read the papers or were on social networking sites, you would have read all the alleged details from that night.

As a blogger and what some have called, a Harlem cheerleader, I don’t want to share the news clips on this topic this time, rehash the events, or pick sides. I don’t doubt something happened that evening and more than likely verbal lines were crossed. However, what I do want to talk about is: where do we go from here? And no, boycotting Cedric’s is not the answer in my view. We need to support both old and new business in Harlem.

Let’s look at questions such as, what should Cedric in Harlem learn from that evening? What should we as a community in Harlem learn from this? Where are the ethics in all of this? And is playing it out in the media first really beneficial or harmful to Harlem, its citizens and business owners? I don’t have all the answers. What I do believe is that the “old and new Harlem” can play in the sandbox together now and in the years to come. That’s what makes Harlem so great. We have the history and those that have lived it and then there are those who want to come to Harlem and be a part of its unique history. There is enough room for everybody in Harlem.

I’ll stop there and as that phrase goes, the lines are open! Let’s discuss how to move forward!

14 responses to “Four women go nuclear on Cedric French Bistro in Harlem, question now is where do we go from here?

  1. There is definitely an old harlem vs. new harlem divide that needs to be addressed. Old harlem is not happy about the changes and there is an air of hostility and resentment. I can definitely sense it. The other day I was getting a manicure a…t Coco Young Nail salon on Frederick Douglas Blvd and there was a customer there making snarky comments about white people and their children while there were white customers there. If it was the other way around, all hell would’ve broken loose!

  2. I moved to NYC 4 yrs ago this month (Feb 25, 2008, to be exact). I first lived in BK, then to the Bx before I finally got to Harlem. Before I even got here, I knew Harlem was where I wanted to live. The culture, the history, the architecture… it is just where I knew I wanted to be! Oh, and I’m white.

    Overall, I will say that Harlem and its residents have welcomed me and I love love LOVE it here. But I’ve also had incidents where I was told that “my kind” is not welcome here and that “my kind” is the problem in Harlem. I can only assume it’s the gentrification that these people are speaking of. Incidentally, all of the incidents where these negative statements were made, they were spoken by women who were African American.

    Everyone is entitled to their opinion. I understand the angst of longtime residents, who were here when Harlem was being ravaged by drugs and crime, when buildings were abandoned and boarded up… when you couldn’t give apartments away. NOW, with the “renaissance” that’s happening (the gentrification), the longtime residents are being priced out. Harlem is becoming more racially diverse… there’s more white people here, but there’s also more Hispanics, a growing Asian population, as well as multi-racial people. And I love it! This is a multi-cultural world, and we all need to learn about each other and how to live with and interact with each other. But I digress…

    Regarding the Incident… I wasn’t there; I do not know exactly what happened. Here’s what I think happened.

    The 4 AA women arrived and were seated, ate and drank and had a great time. The new white party arrived for their reservation, where the AA women were still sitting. They were asked to move to accommodate the existing reservation. By their own admission, they moved and continued to socialize. IF they were that upset about being asked to move, they would have/should have questioned the owner at that time! But they didn’t. They moved without question and without a problem. After more drinking, hours later, then they’re annoyed? The new party was white the whole time. This wasn’t a new realization hours later. After the additional hours, maybe their conversation turned to changes in Harlem over the past months or years. Maybe they started to lament about where there IS still racism and discrimination and unfair treatment of people of color. And maybe, just maybe, THAT’s when the color of the party they were asked to move for became an issue.

    I’m not saying they are wrong, I’m not saying that the restaurant was wrong. This is a clear indication that as much as we as a society have progressed, we have a LONG way to go.

    I loved Mojo… and I really wanted to dislike Cedric because they were taking Mojo’s space. But I have heard great things about this place, and I hope it succeeds. I hope that we can all take a step back, look at the situation from all points of view, and be compassionate and understanding to all of the parties involved.

  3. This can be used as a teaching moment for all involved. This incident may not just be about new vs. old Harlem, but the mutual respect between a customer and any establishment. The business should review their policies such as do they reserve tables for a certain size group and if so, how long should tables be reserved? If a group is already seated, under what circumstances are they asked to move and is that communicated to the customers when they first come in? Customers should be able to take any issues to the floor manager and come to a resolution without having to result to the “act a fool” option. Good customer service is key to any business as is good manners in public should be practiced by any customer. Does that always happen on either side? Unfortunately not. But what is undeniable, Harlem is changing. Heck, the world is changing. There will be lots of growing pains in the process, but I hope the change will bring a new life to our jewel and not shatter it.

  4. …I think that something about the exchange between Cedric and the customers led to their decision to rally for a boycott. I will say that customer service etiquette would dictate that the customer is always right and they should have been informed of the reservation in advance. Even if they decided to move they should have been offered some compensation at the time of the request or at least once they complained. They left feeling disrespected and their efforts at making the establishment accountable are impressive. At times I have found customer service in NYC establishments to be lacking. I think it serves as a reminder/lesson to business owners about taking the lead in finding amicable resolutions to customer complaints.

  5. It is always a double standard nowadays. It is convenient to blame white people for the socio-economic state of AA circumstances, but you can only play the race card for so long while trying to maintain a semblance of rationale. It is simply a matter of comparison which reveals the patterns. The Chinese came to the USA in the 19th Century, mostly to either mine for gold in California, or to work on the railroads. The Chinese have dealt with nothing but Racism for over 150 years, yet they endure, they form their own communities, the create their own economies, and they prosper. No Chinese person will ever blame white people for the state of their culture nor for their standard of living.
    To consider any group of Asians, particularly east Asians, they consistently prosper here in the USA. For them it is the land of opportunity. What may be denied to them outright within the ‘white’ or ‘mainstream American’ culture, they develop for themselves with their own communities. They fund new businesses and enterprises, they manage their own affairs, they assist each other, and keep close knit groups and families.
    You can look at many immigrant groups to NYC and USA in general. They often prosper. Greeks, Italians, Arabs, Turks, Armenians, Ukrainians, all these people came from difficult circumstances, yet they strive and they succeed.
    Even with all of the opportunities afforded to AA’s, especially under the EEOC (equal opportunity programs) which encourage and even demand racial quotas in the workplace; even with loads of public housing (meaning practically free) and Food Stamps (more free stuff), and with easily acquired funding for schools via grants and loans, even with all these advantages and opportunities to enter the workforce, still, African Americans form the basis of most Ghettos and Urban Blight in America today. There is no area in the USA, consisting of a majority of AA, which would be considered nice, or even safe. It is time for African Americans to take a big dose of reality.
    They had taken the most beautiful area in all of NYC, that being the village of Harlem, with its Upper Class Architecture and Housing Stock, and turned it into the most dangerous area in all of North America.
    Black People- You Failed. Blame the Heroin, Blame the Crack, Blame Institutional Racism, Blame Whitey, Blame the Chinks, Blame the Spics, Blame the Irish, because all of these people just want to put you down, or edge you out, Right?
    Wrong. You sold yourself down the river, you sold yourself out, you set up your children to lose before they even get in the race.
    Go into an AA’s house and count the Books.
    How many? Maybe One. Most likely there is a Bible in the house.
    How about Langston Hughes? Most likely not. Maybe you will find a Zora Neale Hurston book, if that particular person went to college and took a Black History class, then you might find some Dick Gregory, WEB DuBois, or the like. Most likely not. How about Dr Seuss? Will you find any Children’s Books at all?
    Education does not begin at 8am. Education does not begin at 8 years old. Education begins at 8 months. Children become familiar with books and they love them. They will devour books if they are offered.
    Instead, AA’s blame the Schools, blame the City, Blame the System.
    Look into your own selves. What have you passed on to your children?
    Have you pushed them to succeed, or do you supply them with bad habits and a lackadaisical attitude?

    • GP, you hit the nail on the head!
      Oh, and by the way, I am black 🙂

    • “Go into an AA’s house and count the Books. How many? Maybe One. Most likely there is a Bible in the house.”

      I think that may be the most ignorant and racist thing I have seen written in a LONG time. The fact that you would think, let alone write, such a ridicilous thing proves that you are the one who needs a dose of reality.

      • Sorry about that one Justin, it may be a bit extreme of a generalization. However, due to a variety of circumstances, I have entered the homes of many AA’s. There are certainly lovers of knowledge within the community, and some of the most socially aware people in NY are AA, the most honest, the most real. It is unfortunate that the community at large cannot be looked upon so favorably. What I hear mostly is a lot of ignorant sh+t spouted by the youth. Older and wizened AA, yes, but the youth? They are in a very sad state. Foul language, functional illiteracy. The only written words they read? Text Messages. lol. not.
        Now I present a challenge- select 10 kids tomorrow– ask them each what is his/her favorite book? Ask each of them-
        What Book are you Reading Now?
        Who are your 3 Favorite Authors?
        At this point, if it is possible, I would love to see some images of great personal libraries in Harlem, rich with Philosophy, History, Art, Psychology, etc. Sadly, so much of our literary tradition is rejected outright by AA’s, often simply because it was written by ‘white people’ and all those white people are wicked liars and fabricators of the Biggest Lie– “His-Story”.

  6. If this is truly a matter of patron vs. establishment, then so be it–these problems happen universally in the food-service industry. However, the fact that these women would go straight to the press speaks more about them than it does about the service at Cedric. Knowing full-well that press coverage would turn this into an Old Harlem/New Harlem, AA/white issue had to have crossed their minds at some point. Either that, or they are just whiny, self-entitled people looking for the attention of a camera’s flash.

    I live very close to Cedric, which is packed every single night. If the owner was a hothead that mismanaged reservations, wouldn’t this occurrence have happened before? And who’s to say that this has happened before, but attention wasn’t paid to the situation because the “victims” didn’t want to make a race/class/posterity issue out of the whole matter. One incident does not a boycott make.

    Frankly, the New Harlem establishments are stimulating the economy and helping to preserve the beauty of Harlem. In my four years in the neighborhood, I have seen both the look and tone of Harlem greatly improve. Yes, I am part of the gentrification process–but gentrification is needed where areas that were once culturally vibrant are now waning in neglect. And boy, do I ever see the neglect here: people throwing trash onto the sidewalk, chicken bones littered on the sidewalk, people leaving soda cans in front of residential doors, groups hanging out in front of residential doors and then being mean when a resident wants access to their door [god forbid!]–and the list goes on and on. I’m sorry, but being a long-term resident that disrespects their own neighborhood cannot sit and cry about the change happening around them. Either step up, respect the beauty of your surroundings, and help to be a part of the upswing, or move to another neighborhood that won’t mind the disrespect. Harlemites–both old and new–would appreciate that immensely.

  7. I call BS on this tempest in a teapot. Usually, when confronted with racist treatment, the response is not to stay at the establishment for three hours after the fact, paying the supposed racist for several bottles of wine without complaint, only to remark about one’s treatment after three hours of drinking.

  8. Afternoon,

    I agree that boycotting is not the answer. The women who were involved with this situation should work it out with the owner. Others did not need to be dragged in. It was over the top. We have to learn to share in order to get the resources and quality of life that we deserve. I support Harlem but it has to grow and welcome others. We need to move on and focus on our future and not the past. Let’s not forget the past but move towards better days.

    Savona Bailey-McClain

  9. This entire episode leaves such a sour taste in the mouth and is like an episode out of the Twilight Zone.

    I am sick and tired of hearing how new people moving into the neighborhood immediately equates to Caucasians. There are any number of other groups moving into the neighborhood. Second, why oh why must the so called ‘old guard’ be treated above and beyond everybody else? From what I have seen, the current elected officials have done sod all to clean up the streets and get the neighborhood in order, but are all too keen to criticize anybody else coming in who god forbid, actually want to be proactive about things. From what I have read the vast majority of locals are behind Cedric with this and all it has done is highlighted how backwards and entitled a select group of Harlemites continue to be.

    In addition, Inez Dickens, an elected official who was not present at the time, calling for a boycott of the restaurant is OK then? THAT is an absolute disgrace and in my book she ought to step down.

  10. It is unfortunate to me that race is even a factor in this conversation. To me, it’s about diner ettiquette (or lack thereof). From the NY Times article I read, the party of women arrived at 4pm. They also had members of their party leave and new ones arrive. At 7:30, the reservation arrived and the owner asked the women to move to a different table. Which they did and continued to drink for a few more hours.
    Having a reservation or being seated at a table does not mean you own it for the entire night! Restaurants make money based on churn, and it was totally understandable for them to want to accomodate their reservation. I don’t believe this was about race and it’s unfortunate that Cedric has been slandered in this way.

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