Fueled by three parts righteous indignation and one part is-he-out-of-his-mind? 20 or so activists gathered outside Lafayette French Pastry Bakers Inc. on Greenwich Avenue in Manhattan on Saturday to protest owner Ted Kefalinos’ “Drunken Negro Head” cookies.
“I’m going to take a human sensitivity course,” Kefalinos told the Amsterdam News, somewhat seriously. “Maybe I just didn’t understand.” “I used to live here, and that guy’s been an a– for years. He’s a Republican idiot!” said a white,40-something male who stopped by the demonstration to pass on his opinion. He was among several whites who said they were embarrassed by the behavior of the local baker. The rally led by the New Black Panther Party drew a crowd of inquisitive and/or vexed passersby. The police quickly erected barricades.
“Lafayette bakery–shut him down!” yelled NBPP Harlem chapter head Shaka Shakur to an echoing chorus. Kefalinos denies that his grotesque pastries were meant to be offensive or incite racist sympathies with anyone in on the joke.
After being challenged by Fox’s Arnold Diaz, who repeatedly asked Kefalinos different versions of “What the heck were you thinking?” the news item was
The Amsterdam News asked the baker if he didn’t understand why Black people would be outraged by the ugly depiction and even nastier name. “Ah, it was a fun face for a fun day,” Kefalinos said of his so-called inauguration/Barack Obama tribute.
Bad enough Kefalinos created an unflattering image; customers have come forward to state that he told them that “like Lincoln, President Obama will get what’s coming to him.” Now the under-siege baker claims that he simply meant that both tall presidents hailed from Illinois.
Yet affronted, members of the New Black Panther Party posted up outside his Greenwich Village shop on Saturday, January 31 to let him know they weren’t buying his “apology” or the act that demanded it.
With additional rallies planned, Shakur said, “You can’t let something like this go unanswered. We will be back. This store needs to be shut down.” Shakur led the rally and the rallying cry on Saturday, which was, “No to racism! Lafayette bakery–Shut ’em down!” The store had its metal gate locked and a sign saying: “Sorry; closing today due to Asian Lunar New Year Celebration.”
“It was very offensive. The store should be completely shut down,” said 19-year-old protestor Terrane Hicks. “I just want to let it die,” Kefalinos pleaded.”I apologized to everyone. I’m hurt just like everybody else. “Not a chance!” proclaimed Divine Allah, youth minister of the NBPP. “He was arrogant and clear when he was interviewed before. Did he really think we were going to let this slide? This isn’t the minstrel show!”
Asked specifics about his thought process, Kefalinos told the AmNews, “I’d rather not talk about it.”
Apparently wanting to make his case, Kefalinos offered, “I went to City College. I know the Amsterdam News. I used to eat at Pete’s Deli on Amsterdam Avenue.”
People aren’t going to be impressed with his saying that he went to City College? he asked. Probably not, the Amsterdam News agreed.
Some people understood, he said, but then there were the e-mails and the death threats.
“My father used to say; ‘When you churn s–t, it smells.” The AmNews assumes he meant that he wanted to let sleeping dogs lie.
“My intent was only good. Unfortunately…I hope people see me in a different light. I’m an easy-going guy. I apologize. The people out here demonstrating on Saturday–if I was here, I would have gone out to them and gave them nice cookies. I do have nice ones in the store. I didn’t mean to offend anyone. I chose the wrong words, but I was not trying to offend anybody or any group.”
The Greek son of a family who has owned the bakery for 80 years eagerly told the paper that there was an upstate-living Black stuntman who used to come to the store, and Kefalinos has a picture of him in the store standing next to actor Telly Savalas.
He has been misconstrued, Kefalinos said. The Arnold Diaz report “put too much in that show. Some people tried to beat it to a pulp.”
The NBPP “want to put us out of business,” he added. “That’s really extreme. People make mistakes; people go on. Look at Imus; he apologized. And he moved on. How can you keep apologizing? When is apologizing enough?
“They have posted my home address on the Internet. It put other people at risk. Some people said they want to make cracker cookies and redneck cookies. I’m not sure if they were joking.”
Shakur told the AmNews, “As a result of the situation at Lafayette bakery, we have formed what will be known as the African-American Anti-Defamation Committee. This organization will pay close attention as well as document all racially motivated crimes committed against the African/African-American communities nationwide.
“In the case of the owner of Lafayette bakery, we will continue to apply pressure to his establishment. We intend to carry this to fullest legal extent possible. The apology that he made will not be enough; his actions have caused a pain that cannot be undone with a simple apology. We will make an example to the world on just how the African-American community will not roll over and accept this. Too many of our people have been sacrificed as a result of the racist climate in America. And we say no more.”
Greenwich Village resident Paul Strum told the AmNews, “This is grotesque. I won’t be going back into the store. The depiction harkens back to the racist caricatures of the 1920s.” E.J. Baliff, a parent at P.S. 41, the school right next to the bakery, told the paper, “I think it’s despicable. It sends a horrible message. It’s the sort of stuff you [would] see in museums at the turn of the century. I hope they do shut him down. I know he has lost a lot of money because the 750 students from the school don’t come here anymore for their cookies, cakes and ice cream after school.”
With a sign bigger than her 9-year-old self, Baliff’s daughter Emma added, “It’s really unfair to African-Americans for him to do this.”
Yaa Asantewaa, a Brooklyn teacher, was a little aggrieved that there were not more young people at the demonstration. “We need our young people to be out here protesting, not just adults. The whole community should be outraged,” she said. “This is not just a cookie; it is also a death threat. Black people should not spend a single cent in Lafayette bakery. But I know some people will still go in there.”
“Maybe it was a cross-cultural thing. Maybe I just didn’t understand,” Kefalinos proclaimed.
“If this was a cookie of a drunken Golda Meir, would they think that was funny? See what would happen,” said Yaa Asantewaa. “Or what if it was Nelson Mandela? This is the first of many assaults on the Black president. We should make sure it is understood that we will not stand for this.”