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OK Cafe C0-Owner Susan DeRose Friday had staff remove the controversial Georgia flag art that has adorned the restaurant’s dining room for more than 30 years.
The flag, complete with a Confederate battle emblem, has been a point of contention in the community for years and resurfaced this week after What Now Atlanta (WNA) on Sunday broke the story of a cryptic banner DeRose hung outside the restaurant stating “Lives That Matter Are Made With Positive Purpose.”
DeRose’s banner was put on display as Black Lives Matter (BLM) organizers are leading protests worldwide to shed light on police brutality and systemic racism and was met with great backlash both locally and nationally.
That banner earlier this week was taken down and replaced with one that states, “OK Cafe Loves America.”
DeRose told Channel 2 Action News, the outlet on location with a camera crew as the flag came down, “I thought, ‘Well, I’m just going to take it down. We’re going to auction it off because I understand it offends people. So I’m going to take it down and we’re going to give the money to the police force.”
LaeTania M. Richardson, a longtime admin of OK Cafe’s parent company Liberty House, told WNA she is “overwhelmed with emotions” at the coming down of the flag, something she’s been fighting for as an African-American woman.
“[DeRose] knew for years what that flag represented to many of us,” Richardson said.
“It’s a new day at the OK Cafe! Now, hire some minorities in a position of management!”
Richardson said when she worked for DeRose part of her job was to email disgruntled customers the restaurant’s justification for the proudly-displayed the flag.
DeRose later provided this statement to WNA regarding the flag removal:
We took down something that was a part of OK Cafe’s history for 33 years, the craved wooden Georgia flag. Many of the staff hated to see it go, some were indifferent, perhaps some thought it right, but many customers will feel we “folded.”
I did it because threats against us were called in yesterday. The several calls said a march was planned next week to take down OK Cafe and burn the flag. They were considered credible threats and home security were monitoring. I didn’t want the wonderful people who work at OK Cafe (and many for decades) to be harmed over something like art, so I decided to take the piece down and commissioned another piece to put in its place.
When the art piece came down there was a moment of melancholy, then we ( OK Cafe’s staff) applauded our decent and right actions. Its time we move on. There were customers present who asked me why but I suppose they didn’t understand how sensitive this has become and how much negative energy it is producing. It takes away for our mission to serve and make the world a better place.
In closing all this, let me make this one point perfectly clear: none of us are racist (the current scarlet letter). And all of us hope all the meanness toward us is over now. We have nothing left which might offend. We have only open hearts, good food to kind serve.