They say that the calmest part of a storm is at the center. As nationwide protests rallied against the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Sammy's Avenue Eatery in that city was a gathering place for communication and healing instead of destruction.
"We were not terrorized," said Samuel McDowell, owner of Sammy's Avenue Eatery.
Activists and demonstrators made sure of that. Leslie Redmond, who at the time was branch president of the NAACP Minneapolis, organized a watch team to guard the entire block of the main location, McDowell said. Redmond contacted individuals who were licensed to carry firearms, organized orientation and set up watch shifts, he said.
Two locals volunteered to stand watch, and tech-savvy youngsters spread a firm edict via text.
"Young people were out here with their phones telling each other 'DO NOT TOUCH SAMMY'S!'" McDowell said. "We have all glass windows and we were not touched at all."
Not violently, anyway. Locals and activists adopted the restaurant as a haven away from the stresses of a city in turmoil. McDowell says about 300 people gathered at the West Broadway Avenue location every evening for weeks during the height of the social unrest in 2020. Some contributed food to help feed the crowd. McDowell bought a cooler and stocked it with grocery staples. He gave away so much food that he had to restock the restaurant's refrigerator every morning, he said.
McDowell said he would use the proceeds from the NAACP-BeyGOOD Small Business Impact Fund to refurbish the physical spaces after so much wear and tear from the daily crowds and to recoup the cost of handing out food.
"To me, this feels like a touchdown grant," McDowell said.