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What Now Atlanta (WNA) on Monday obtained a series of emails between OK Cafe Co-Owner Susan DeRose and one of her former employees LaeTania M. Richardson about a cryptic banner the restaurant over the weekend adorned to its exterior while simultaneously hosting a “Tea Party” in the parking lot.
The banner, which states, “Lives That Matter Are Made With Positive Purpose,” arrives as Black Lives Matter (BLM) organizers are leading protests worldwide to shed light on police brutality and systemic racism.
Social media posts with pictures of the banner quickly spread Sunday night alongside comments of confusion over what the owners of OK Cafe intended with the perplexing message.
Richardson’s exchange—which kicks off with an inquiry about a Georgia flag featuring the Confederate battle emblem that once was prominently displayed inside of OK Cafe for years—provides some insight on the restaurant’s position.
“I use to write the letters to disgruntled OK Cafe customers regarding the flag,” Richardson in an email told WNA.
“It was degrading for me as a black woman to defend DeRose’s stance on the flag.”
Here’s the exchange in its entirety (a statement from DeRose to WNA follows):
I’m curious to know if you still have the Confederate Flag on display at the OK CAFE! I remember how degrading it was for me as a BLACK WOMAN to write a response defending your reasoning for its display.
You once told me it was to express the pride you had for family members who fought in the war! Albeit a war they lost.
I understand you had a “sweet tea party” today. No pun intended..I’m sure! This is an insult to your African American employees and I pray they all find work somewhere else!
I’ll be sure to pass this message for you as well!
Hi—not sure who this is as you didn’t sign your name and your email address is a bit vague?? I have never asked anyone to write a response for the reason I have the flag at OKC.
About that Georgia Flag. That was the state flag for 18 years of OKC’s life. When the flag was changed I kept our flag up—as an honor. I am very proud of that flag because under that flag I was given full rights, full access to all things America has to offer. That has never been done before for women—it’s HUGE!
In 1964 our state took on this great change with grace and moved forward with no interruptions. I am proud of Georgia! I have been able to succeed, to pursue my happiness in ways I know best. I serve…with gratitude and integrity.
Yes, the Tea Party Sign meant Taxation Without Representation. I suppose you know, businesses across America are being looted and burned down. We need our tax dollars spent on stopping this brutality. When the businesses are gone you will be living in a 3rd World country.
If you work now or once worked at OKC, you know we are a company made up of people who are White, Black, Hispanic, Asian. We are Democrats, Republicans, and libertarians; we are straight and we are gay. At OKC we are all the colors and flavors of this country…and WE ARE NOT BEING PROTECTED. Have you wondered yet; who will be held responsible to repay all the business owners for their losses? Will it be Black Lives Matter? Will it be regular taxpayers who did nothing wrong?
Selfish, cruel, and destructive people took businesses across America to their knees. Hard-working people lost. The question is—who will pay?
Your last two sentences make it seem as though you are angry with me or with the OK Cafe—I am sorry you have taken my stance wrongly and hope now you see I too have a view.
Thanks for clarity! Never confuse passion with anger. I’ll be sure to post your response.
Ok, I won’t. And please never confuse passion with hatred or imagine racism where there is none. We are all truly blessed and it seems this is the right time for all Americans to shout out a big thank you, then let’s move forward, making America a wonderful place to live.
NO MORE VIOLENCE
NO MORE LOOTING
NO MORE DESTRUCTION
NO MORE HURTING INNOCENT PEOPLE AND THEIR LIVELIHOOD.
As promised, I’ve gone ahead and sent your response to several media outlets and posted it on all social media platforms. I wanted everyone to see your point of view.
Interestingly enough the US military has banned the Confederate flag for the obvious reasons but as you stated you want to hold onto it “with honor.”
I JUST read an article saying “when racism’s explicit expression becomes taboo, it hides in coded language.”
Not sure if you’ve had a moment today between making “ sweet tea” and YOUR stance for as you say the “brutality of property” and how the looters have put America on its “knees” (love the way you chose your words) to read your reviews on Yelp!
Good Morning Lea,
It’s ok if you sent something to the media but FYI we do NOT have a confederate flag at the OK Cafe. I have never owned a Confederate flag. OK Cafe has a GEORGIA flag which is a piece of art—carved by an artist from New Mexico. Many people love that piece of art—and they certainly deserve to have an opinion too.
I understand you want to make a point, but facts also matter—and your facts are not correct.
Hopefully, all this ill-will will be behind us soon and good-will prevails. The aim is peace on earth—remember.
And accusing others of doing something wrong, when they did not, and claiming people have hate, where they do not, is not fair nor just.
We were making a point with our signs – as we have the right to do. All this violence has caused deep and horrific damage across the nation—to innocent people. Hurting innocent people is not the way to make a point and should not be allowed. No one is talking about this!
It is business that makes this country go round. Hopefully, you are not against the USA as we are the fairest country the world has ever known. Can we improve? Of course, and we always have. That is why the USA is still the beacon to the rest of the world.
Lea—we probably have more in common than against so let’s meet someday on the neutral ground and share story of our lives and loves (as our Marvin Gay quote said).
DeRose confirmed the email exchange with WNA Monday and provided the following statement:
The violence that has been allowed to be a part of this BLM movement is hurting small businesses that makeup America. Who will pay to put them back in business? Why aren’t they being protected? And it is very worrisome that signs of positive thinking are now under attack. These attackers do not know our company or they would certainly never write what they do. Why not speak to our employees—many who have been with us for decades?
FYI The GA flag—which we had carved and was the state flag for the first 18 years of our business life, has nothing to do with racism. I’ve made that point clear. but here we go again; I am a female who got my civil rights as this flag flew over our state capital, I am proud of what those men did. It was 1st in history! And I have been able to succeed and employ hundreds of people, of all races and creeds, for over 40 years.
I am sorry the few who don’t know history (mine and America’s) can’t understand why I love my artwork but I will not be bullied into removing what they insist I must. Others tried similar antics some 75 years ago—but the USA fought against them and won.
My company, Liberty House, has a fine and good reputation and mean-spirited people seek now to destroy us unless I obey their demands. Very scary stuff. But I stand for the positive purpose and responsible capitalism.
I suppose you have an opposing opinion.
This great country gives you the right to have yours as I have mine. Neither of us has the right to demand others to kneel to our demands. And the press should not be allowed to tell lies about good people with good intentions. I hope this makes my point.
I thought the sign says it all.
Be positive and carry on…with positive purpose. Our company has a LONG history of making this point.
BTW many people are hearing about attacks on our company today and are disturbed and want to know if they need to protect us. I am saying NO. Calmer and more logical heads always prevail. But the press has a need and a responsibility to report accurately. We are under attack just because we thought we had the right to speak up too (and we even brought tea and lemonade 🙂
Our tea party sign was in reference to America’s Tea Party 1773. Taxation without representation…Small businesses are not being protected/represented but ARE paying big taxes.
Business is here to serve—all Americans. As an independent who is not afraid to speak out, we stand to say—protect small businesses—stop looting and burning us down. And now—stop the racist posting against people who are themselves not racist. Small businesses are the fabric of this country! Don’t destroy us.
Other restaurants are openly in support of BLM and are aiding protesters in Atlanta (click here to see what those eateries are doing).