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Under siege of challenges, some restaurant owners show solidarity online

Hundreds of protesters march throughout downtown Los Angeles on Tuesday, June 2, 2020.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Shattered glass and graffiti made up the four-photo slideshow chef Josef Centeno posted online Saturday.

In the first, there’s a hole where a window once was, its existence evidenced only by the jagged shards of glass still embedded in the frame. In the last, the windows at his nearby Tex-Mex cantina Bar Amá are tagged in white graffiti.

The photos documented what had happened the night before in downtown L.A., when anger, frustration and unrest sparked by the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody grew into widespread protests. The torrent that swept through downtown L.A. Friday flared up, at times, into vandalism and destruction.

On Sunday, Centeno followed up with another Instagram post in which he thanked followers for their offers to help and directed their support to Black Lives Matter, the Bail Project and the African American Policy Forum‘s #SayHerName project.

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“We are OK — even if we don’t know what the future will hold,” he wrote. “What we do know is #blacklivesmatter.”

Since dine-in service was shut down in Los Angeles on March 15, many restaurants and chefs have been more active on social media. Collectively, they tell of an industry that’s been decimated by the coronavirus. Their posts document the real-time adjustments and decisions they’ve made during the pandemic. They highlighted new ways they had devised to feed and serve their communities and customers — some turning overnight into grocery suppliers, others sharing the efforts they were participating in to feed their unemployed and imperiled colleagues or the hospital workers putting their lives on the line fighting COVID-19.

Now, they’re using social media platforms to advocate beyond their restaurants, speaking out against racial injustice and encouraging their sizable follower bases to donate to the cause.

“I don’t really discuss politics here,” Jeremy Fox, of Birdie G’s in Santa Monica, wrote on Sunday. “But what we’re seeing in our country right now is beyond politics. It’s humanity.”

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He went on to say that he’s “here to pay attention, listen, learn, be uncomfortable and to support #BlackLivesMatter, and be a positive catalyst for the change that must take place.”

“The anger is real & peace will continue to be difficult w/o justice & a full unpacking of the inequalities,” chef Roy Choi wrote on Twitter.

On Tuesday, Joy in Highland Park switched its hours to comply with another night of curfews and said it would donate 10% of all sales to the Equal Justice Initiative, after donating 10% of its sales on Monday to the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

“We can and must be better,” the Taiwanese restaurant wrote.

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On Sunday, Alimento in Silver Lake said it would donate 10% of its phone-in sales to the NAACP.

Go Get Em Tiger announced in an Instagram story that it had donated to the Black Visions Collective, the Peoples City Council Freedom Fund on GoFundMe, the North Star Health Collective and the National Bailout. The coffee shop chain offered free coffee to guests who could show proof of donation over $20 to an organization dedicated to advancing justice for black Americans.

“We believe in justice for black people and support the protests happening around the country now.”

A list of black-owned restaurants, coffee shops, bakeries, food trucks and pop-ups in the Los Angeles area.

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Poncho’s Tlayudas shared an effort encouraging indigenous people to donate to a trio of organizations working in Minnesota: the Minnesota Freedom Fund, Reclaim The Block and Black Visions Collection.

The MFF received a flood of donations in the past several days totaling around $20 million. That money, they said, would be used to pay bail for supporters who’ve shown up at rallies and for people in the community who are being held pretrial because they cannot pay, and to post bond for people in ICE detention.

Windrose Farms in Paso Robles, pointed to a list of resources in a post calling on nonblack people to take action against racism.

And as the violence of interactions between police and protesters intensified Sunday and Monday, chefs including Sarah Hymanson of Kismet and Kismet Rotisserie encouraged Angelenos to push their local officials for more funding for housing, homeless services, small businesses and schools in the next budget.

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