Nov

20

About a Boycott

Written by

In which Bwog correspondent Alex Weinberg survives to tell the tale.

atlahA few weeks ago, I found a small postcard on 114th Street. It read “No Dew, Nor Rain / No Pain, No Gain: A Three Year Boycott of Harlem,” and it explained that the Honorable James David Manning PhD, head of ATLAH World Missionary Church on 123rd Street, is calling for a boycott of his own neighborhood in order to save it from gentrification. Suffocating Harlem’s businesses and forcing its people into homelessness will prevent it from being destroyed, according to a leap of logic that could only be advocated by a true man of God. 

 

After perusing the website and watching some of his videos, I knew I had to witness the madness firsthand. Last Thursday night, I strolled to 123rd and Lenox for an open sermon about the boycott.

 

Let it be known that there is nothing like the sight of armed Black Panthers to remind you of your completely irrational fear of armed Black Panthers, several of whom had attended the event for the specific purposes of standing and looking angry. As I approached them, I imagined my poor Ma receiving my corpse in the mail. She would insist that I have a gravestone that reads “Alex Weinberg: shot in the mouth because he is a damn moron.” There would be nobody to write this article, and there would be nobody to change my Facebook status to “dead.” 

 

Even as images of my imminent death accumulated in my mind, I kept walking toward the entrance along with the general flow of people. The door closed behind me, and now I was in the church vestibule. One thing you don’t learn in SEAS is that when a Black Panther greets you with, “Peace”, the correct way to respond is, “Peace,” not, “Oh, um. Well hello, friend.” After a tense moment, a black non-panther wordlessly took my coat and led me to a pew where I waited for the start of the sermon.  

 

A man came on stage and said a long and hearty prayer to open. I noticed the people all around me were saying their “amens” and “Hallelujahs” and the like. I had never been in a church ceremony in my life and I felt that it would be in everyone’s best interest for me to fit in, so I began shouting and praying along with everyone else. It felt both phony and necessary, and it made me wonder if any those people who drank chloral hydrate flavored Kool-Aid in Jonestown were just doing it so that they wouldn’t seem rude.  

 

Soon, The Honorable James David Manning PhD came on stage to lay out his plan for the boycott. “European invaders,” he explained, have long envied Harlem for its stately brownstones, spacious sidewalks, low cost of living, and ample transportation. In recent years, local residents have been displaced as rising housing demand drives up rents. In order to halt this march of gentrification, Manning wants neighborhood residents to boycott all “white businesses” and spend money only at “righteous establishments.” (He used the words “black” and “righteous” interchangeably.) People should only shop at black businesses, use black banks, and live in black-owned buildings. In doing so, the wealth created by Harlem would be kept strictly within Harlem, and outsiders would be economically starved out of the neighborhood.  

 

Though his preservationist intention is noble and his love of Harlem undeniable, Pastor Manning’s boycott is a terrible idea and thankfully it will never happen. Regardless, his speech left me wondering whether it was even a fair thing to ask: When I left the church that night and hustled back through the gaze of the Black Panthers, I knew that Pastor Manning was referring to me when he railed against the “invader.” As a white person, I know better than to trust white people, but I still don’t think it’s wise to discount a race of people just because they happen to be the ones building condo towers. I love Harlem and I don’t mean to invade the place. I just want to stroll around, eat pizza, buy my pomade, and get completely embarrassed in streetball. Deal?

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33 Comments

  1. see  

    according to a leap of logic that could only be advocated by a true man of God.

    http://www.austinchronicle.com/binary/c3922e57/i_see_what_you_did_there.jpg

  2. good work  

    hilarious piece.

  3. Sprinkles

    Good piece. That reverend is a nut job. Poke about on his website and you'll find plenty of homophobia.

  4. fresh kicks  

    don't forget the sneaker possibilities!

  5. Haha  

    'there would be nobody to change my Facebook status to "dead."'

    We love you.

  6. DHI  

    Nice reference to Patsy's

  7. hmm  

    "I still don't think it's wise to discount a race of people just because they happen to be the ones building condo towers."

    I don't think its wise to discount a race of people just because they remind you of the Black Panthers... nobody is going to shoot you if you go to Harlem.

    If I were poor and people were forcing me out of my neighborhood I'd be ticked too.

  8. uhhhh  

    doesn't this sound like the kind of ignorant bullshit that just reinforces the columbia image of harlem as that scary dark place up north? the entire thing is about this stupid kid shitting his pants over getting shot in the mouth because he's going to a black church at 123rd street! word to crackerjack: people don't get shot for being white. he's terrified, "black non-panthers" are taking his coat and he's sorry they're building condos but he just wants to walk around and take in some color, you know, escape morningside heights and maybe buy things that are cheap (because black people are poor). it's not a trip to the zoo asshole, you're just as likely to be shot in a black church as in a white church (trust me, people are armed in those too), and i'm pretty sure you don't wear pommade.

    • ...  

      you're right, it is wholly irrational for him to feel uncomfortable in a church filled with armed black supremacists advocating the boycott of white businesses as a means of retaliation against the "european invaders."

      • fuckin dumb  

        the point is that the church is not full of 'armed black supremacists', it's just that this stupid suburban kid feels the same irrational fear you do of black people organizing to stop people from kicking them out of their neighborhood. when is the last time a white person was touched by 'black supremacists' in a church in broad daylight just because he's white? don't believe the hype is all i'm saying.

    • gee  

      As a white church-goer, I can tell you that I have never seen anyone bring a gun into church. But then again, I'm Catholic, and we're quite a guilty folk.

      But thanks anyway for the generalizations!

    • alexw  

      I held a long term job in Harlem. I have spent more time and more money in the neighborhood than you'll ever care to know. As I told my editor earlier, some residents of the Grant Houses even saved my life when I was struck by a van on 125th Street.

      I'm never afraid of being shot by black people. I'm afraid of being shot by people who have guns and who probably do not like me, regardless of their color. Use your dome!

      Moreover, I do wear Murray's Pomade. I had a hell of a time buying it before I came to Columbia, and now I am fully stocked. I have at least one orange tin of the stuff at all times.

    • Sure

      Sure, there's never any black on white racial crime in that area. Just ask the family of that NYU kid who was chased into traffic and killed, while he was up there doing charity work.

  9. Rudedogg

    I’ve noticed that most people think Harlem is either a deathtrap (for whites) or perfectly safe. The reality is somewhere in between. I’ve been jumped (not beaten seriously, thankfully), and I’ve also been treated well and made friends.

    • jumped

      People get jumped around Columbia. Not because they're white and surrounded by armed black supremacists.

      But because they're fucking stupid. Don't go walking down side streets at 3am by yourself, dipshit.

  10. I thought

    this was pretty funny. until I got to the last paragraph. wealth flow has been a significant issue in the black community for a long time.

    Phrased one way, the "boycott" is nothing more than a "buy local" campaign. There's not that much difference between Manning's call, and those of upper middle class supporters of "local farmed goods". It's a call to support an economy that might otherwise get trampled in the short term by market forces, which may if wide ranging consequences.

    Community members being successful business owners means soci-economic progress for the community. Some might argue that it's better than having a Walmart open and the profits go straight to corporate HQ.

  11. Rudedogg

    I didn't say I was jumped by black supremacists. I was walking down the street I live on at 9:00 pm, dipshit.

  12. Nick Carter  

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    Everayboday yeah, ye-ah.
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    yeh-ah
    Everyboday yeah, rock yo' boday right.
    Backstreet's back, alright!!

  13. the line  

    about the tombstone is funny, but the panic about being shot - at a church service? - is obviously totally irrational and is really suspicious, given the racial context

  14. also

    it looks like it wasn't a church service exactly, it was on a Thursday night, and a speech about a boycott. Look at the postcards advertising it:
    http://atlah.org/media/nodewnorraincards.html

  15. Hallelujah!  

    Surely this nut was hired by PrezBo to kill all business in the area and make the Manhattanville expansion easy?

  16. I think  

    if you actually read this article, its easy to see that alex isnt afraid of black people, just afraid of guns. I would call that understandable. Plus when its funny yo ucan get away with that kind of humor

  17. The Dink  

    Yo this preacher man is crazy. Check out what he says:

    http://atlah.org/about/gettysburg.html

  18. Fleh

    Murray's pomade is too thick. For me it's Dixie Peach all the way.

  19. this article  

    was all about the writer's social anxiety. ease up, kid!

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