Since May, a Brooklyn-based group has been promoting happy hour events at Black-owned and POC-friendly bars under the hashtag #TheBlackHour in hopes of saving such establishments from spreading gentrification.
The idea came from Addy Salau, an artist and the founder of Party Blackly, a media and event platform that increases audience engagement for up-and-coming Black artists. Salau launched the organization in 2018. It’s opening party brought together more than 700 Black New Yorkers for a screening of Marvel’s “Black Panther” film. The success of this event convinced Salau to use the same strategy for supporting local artists in her home borough of Brooklyn.
The first installation of #TheBlackHour was held in Prospect Heights at the Black-owned Ode to Babel bar, which was under threat of losing its liquor license due to a complaint that spread across the Next Door App.
More than 75 people RSVP’d to the event, and Salau had to close the list to keep it under venue capacity. A special tequila-based cocktail called “Black Joy” was crafted for the event while a local DJ spun a playlist dominated by local Black artists. Guests were issued wristbands that labeled them as “artist,” “activist,” or “entrepreneur” to encourage networking.
Just a few days after the event, the local community board received 180 letters defending Ode to Babel’s place in the community and decided to move forward with the bar’s liquor license renewal.
In 2018, Ode to Babel was subject to a city raid carried out under former Mayor Rudy Guiliani’s MARCH program. Such raids are random and unannounced, often leading to fines for petty violations. Another bill has been introduced by Brooklyn City Councilmembers Stephen Levin and Rafael Espinal that would force the Mayor’s office to issue quarterly reports on the MARCH raids that specify which businesses were targeted, what complaints led to the raids, and any resulting closures or summons. The councilmembers are hopeful that the bill will be passed this summer and force the NYPD to operate with more transparency.
Salau plans to continue hosting #TheBlackHour events this fall and to increase the visibility of Black-owned bars across Brooklyn.