The New York Times Is Wrong About Jumbo's
Last week, when Liberty City soul food restaurant Jumbo's closed its doors, it was big news. The New York Times' Frances Robles wrote a front-page story documenting how the joint went from discriminating against African-Americans to becoming a black Miami landmark. The Miami Herald and others followed.
I, for one, am glad the place is gone. Good riddance. If the black people who frequented Jumbo's had any sense, they would have put the restaurant out of business decades ago.
I always hated Jumbo's because it was the first place I experienced segregation. I remember my mom would take my brothers and me to Jumbo's in the late '60s. She'd drive the family's yellow Galaxy 500 to the back of the restaurant to pick up our shrimp order.
One day I asked my mom why we couldn't go inside. She explained that only white people were allowed to sit in Jumbo's. From then on, the place was a constant reminder of the inequality blacks face in Miami.
Jumbo's finally began allowing blacks in the dining area when Bobby Flam took over the spot from his father in 1967. Flam told the Times that 30 of his white employees quit when he told them he would welcome African-Americans.
Black community leaders hail Flam for being one of the first white business owners to integrate. But it's not like he had a choice. By then, Liberty City was becoming predominantly black. Jumbo's became the place for Miami's black powerbrokers and community activists to meet. When people rioted in 1980 after four white cops were acquitted in the beating death of a black man, Jumbo's was one of the only businesses left undamaged.
Flam said he's closing because a developer bought the building for $490,000 and has promised to turn it into a retail center and low-income housing. But it's probably just another attempt to gentrify a black neighborhood. For me, Jumbo's closing is like watching the Confederate flag being burned. While some black people are sad about it, I couldn't be happier.
I can't wait to see the bulldozers tear it down.
Follow Luke on Twitter: @unclelukereal1.
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