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Why I went to the Red and Black in the first place


By Cornelia Seigneur

During an interview this past week regarding my blog post, “Where’s a Police Officer to get a cup of Coffee?” I was asked whether I knew what the red and black stood for before going there for lunch Tuesday May 18 with my daughter. I had briefly gone to their website which said it is “safe and welcoming to all.” Yes, I knew it was a bit radical, but my daughter and I like adventure and we were open to what we thought would simply be an interesting indie vegan eating experience with  my vegetarian daughter.   

My daughter at the red and black

 I initially heard about the red and  black because I was working on a story for The Oregonian on Matt Mikalatos, the author of Imaginary Jesus, a fast paced hilarious story examining pre-conceived notions of Jesus Christ, which begins at none other than the vegan red and black café (in my published final edition published June 6, I just note that the story is set in a local café ).

 Interestingly, Mikalatos sets his story at the red and black  to show how a certain segment of Portland is, and my experience there, having an officer kicked out while I was I was quietly speaking with him May 18, kind of legitimizes Mikalatos’ opening setting of his book.  Mikalatos is a missionary with Campus Crusade for Christ and has spoken to people in an open and honest way about Jesus for 10 plus years. He listens to people and hopes his book will be a vehicle to an open dialogue about Jesus, with believers and atheists, and anyone who would like to talk.

Since this week of craziness regarding my May 22 blog post on my experience, which went viral only after I posted it on Facebook May 29, I have been asked if I will go back to the red and black. Honestly, I would be afraid. I really do not think I would be welcome. And I too would be asked to leave. And I hate rejection. I really would not go back either, to be honest, as the food was, as I noted, not very tasteful,which I have not focused on. I was just trying to bring light to the dishonoring of a human being. 

I will note that someone created a “Ban the red and black café” Facebook page started, which people at church today told me has  thousands of followers, and while I appreciate their efforts to support police, I really just to remain positive. To say thank you. To raise awareness of how hard it must be to not be respected by some of the very citizens you are trying to protect. I would like to keep this positive. On the morning of my interview with Paul Linnman on 1190, my husband said to think about a way to support the police in a positive way. So, that is why we for now ceated the “Blue Ribbon Campaign-Police Deserve a Cup of Coffee” Facebook page!/pages/Blue-Ribbon-Campaign-Police-Deserve-a-Cup-of-Coffee/109371342442292?ref=ts . And, I am meeting with police public relations to see what we can do as a whole to show the overwhelming support.

Most importantly, as I have said over and over, I really just want to continue this  dialogue and conversation. Just as Matt Mikalatos is trying to do with his book, Imaginary Jesus, the very reason I even set foot at the red and black in the first place.

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15 Responses

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  1. Nayana says

    TO: the long memory is the most radical …..
    FROM: MarchFourth Marching Band

    WE HAVE NEVER BEEN PEPPER SPRAYED BY THE POLICE. It must have been a different band.

  2. recon says

    I grew up in that neighborhood .I went to St. Francis school , and then Washington High school. My memories are the same as most that grew up there.They are of cops that rarely gave even a kid a break, cops that beat the hell out of drunks, the homeless,almost anyone weaker than them. The cops have reaped what they have sown, especially in that neighborhood. I didn’t know this cafe existed, but now I shall make it a point to stop by and give them some business, and from what I understand, business is great there now.

  3. Calfed says

    “every business has a right to serve or not serve who they please assuming they are not practicing discrimination against a protected group”

    Who should decide who is a “protected group” and who isn’t?

  4. Justin "Gnarly" Byington says

    Having attended a number of educational and inspiring film screenings and benefit concerts and such at Red & Black, a challenge I would offer to you is to go to these events to really get to know the patrons and activists being supported by the cafe, not necessarily those that work there. The cafe is a community, not just a business.

    You mention that you don’t think you would feel welcome there. Do you think activists feel welcome when trying to promote positive change to people that would rather remain ignorant to how the world works? The general populace is only now waking up to the realities of the world that activists supported by Red & Black try to open people’s eyes to on a regular basis. Should it really take a massive oil spill, or a U.N. report on factory farming contributing to global warming, to make people see these things? No, it shouldn’t.

    Other establishments should be as progressive about promoting positive change through support of activists. Most aren’t because the small minority that don’t blindly follow comfortable popular culture are seen as ‘abnormal’. One of the comments on a previous blog post called the action of the cafe co-owner worthy of investigation based on the “abnormality of that type of behavior.” Rather than try to understand, one would rather categorize and disdain a point of view they don’t understand.

    Going to Red & Black to benefits and such for a couple months may be the hardest thing you can think of doing right now (note I didn’t say you should or have to spend any money there). But if you immersed yourself in the culture of the establishment you may gain an insight and understanding about a segment of the population many don’t understand. Until activists for the woman’s suffrage movement, the civil rights movement, and others became mainstream and accepted, they were also misunderstood. How are activists for human rights, animals rights, the environment, and other such movements, any different?

    What do you say to this challenge?

  5. the long memory is the most radical idea in America says

    I am not implying Officer Crooker has any connection whatsoever with any of the events I am about to list, but here are a few of my memories of some of the most egregious actions by members of the Portland Police force. Hopefully this brief and incomplete history offers an explanation for why I support and will continue to support the Red & Black Cafe. There are few enough organizations/locations offering sanctuary to those who would wish to hold police accountable for heinous behaviors. As there is a documented history of Police harassment, sabotage and incitement to violence aimed at these kinds of organizations, of which Portland is not immune ( So suspicion of and discomfort with the Police ought to be expected in some cases.

    I remember:

    – the police riot at PSU, documented on film
    – witnessing a paddy wagon officer pick up a sleeping homeless man by his belt and collar and then slam him against the side of the wagon, against the door of the wagon, and against the bumper of the wagon before tossing him head first into the wagon
    – the possums at the Burger Barn and the reinstatement of the officers responsible for this heinous act
    – the “don’t choke ’em just smoke ’em” t-shirts printed up and worn by officers after one of “their own” (as they like to refer to themselves) choked Tony Stephenson to death on MLK; Stephenson was a father of five who made his living as a security guard; the officers responsible for the t-shirts were reinstated
    – Mark Kruger’s history of violence against nonviolent protesters and his admission he built a memorial to dead WWII German soldiers on Rocky Butte
    – the police officer who randomly pepper sprayed reporters and nonviolent protesters while also verbally insulting them during a Bush fundraising visit for Gordon Smith; the official police reaction? “Protesters shouldn’t bring children to protests” (I witnessed this event)
    – at the same protest, the pepper spraying of the March Fourth Marching Band who were standing in place while playing their instruments (I witnessed this event)
    – the shooting of Jose Mejia Poot within the walls of a psychiatric hospital
    – the shooting of Kendra James for a traffic infraction and her subsequently being left handcuffed and bleeding while she slowly died
    – the shooting of the unarmed James Jahar Perez, approached for not using his turn signal and dead in less than 30 seconds; after being shot by bullets he was shot by a 50,000 volt taser that was left running for over three minutes
    – the brutal assault on James Chasse by Chris Humphreys and Chasse’s subsequent treatment in the detention center before being transported to a hospital (48 separate abrasions/contusions, evidence of 16 blows to the head, ribs broken in his back as a result of a kick or a knee drop)
    – Police Sergeant O’Keefe writing “Nice work, boys. Glad u r ok n he isn’t” in response to hearing about the Chasse assault
    – the firing of a bean bag shotgun from less than two feet at a 12 year old girl already forced to the ground by another officer
    – Scott Westerman committing two acts of road rage in two days, in one of them threatening the driver of the other car about his ability to have her arrested, even though he was off duty and out of uniform.

  6. annoyed says

    Further–I would invite you and your supporters to stop spamming every community organization in Portland with anti-red and black emails. People know how you feel & are supporting a fellow community space & institution. You & the cop fan club don’t seem to know anything about the organizations you’re hitting except that we stand with our friends and community members. If you want to exclude us all, then I suppose your community will be the police union & your blog. Good luck with that.

  7. Ed Cocks says

    As many have acknowledged (including the police officer) every business has a right to serve or not serve who they please assuming they are not practicing discrimination against a protected group. That said, customers also have the right to vote with their dollars by spending their money where they fell safe and can enjoy decent tasting food. No one needs to boycott the place, they will muddle on to success, failure or medicrity on their own. It’s amusing to think that “the establishment” will be any more against them over this than they already were. My wife eats vegan whenever possible but also cannot understand why any place would take someone’s money for a product then ask them to leave. So, we will make our future choices accordingly and others can endure joints like this.

  8. just here to help says

    Yes, I am also surprised that this non-story has garnered so much attention while the investigation into our police officers’ trafficking of anabolic steriods and human growth hormone has received little or no attention.

    So much for open and honest dialogue. I’ve noticed that anything truthful about the cops that isn’t flattering disappears off of your websites. Feel free to email me and explain how “open and honest” that is.

    I would love to actually communicate with you, but I expect that you will just delete my input and ignore me. Have fun having “open and honest dialogue” only with people who already agree with you. And by the way, thanks for boosting business at the Red and Black! : )

    Oh yeah – the link to the news story in the Oregonian:
    “Canby steroid supplier’s cooperation with FBI spreads investigation to other law enforcement agencies, including Portland”
    By Maxine Bernstein, The Oregonian
    May 03, 2010, 9:20PM

  9. davidfromalabama says

    @xela, i cannot believe you know what that officer was you have esp or a crystal ball?the man told you what he was thinking. he did not ask if any activists were in the store did he?you make it sound as if you were there.i also ask, have you ever thought of becoming a police officer or do you the intestinal fortitude to do so?or will you just hide beind the key board and wait on the misfortune of another to pipe up and say how wrong someone was done and get your two cents in?next time you need help,dont call the police, call a crack head.

  10. Matt Mikalatos says

    Hey Cornelia, thanks so much for this.

    I knew, of course, that the Cafe is Communist (or at least socialist). I mention it in the book, and I’m particularly fond of the giant mural they have of Bruce SPringsteen that says THE ONLY BOSS WE LISTEN TO, which pretty much sums up the spirit of the cafe.

    I agree that I don’t see a boycott as being something particularly useful, since most people that would boycott over this issue aren’t going to the Red and Black anyway. It’s a symbolic gesture that (it seems to me) creates division rather than introducing helpful dialogue. And it doesn’t impact the Red and Black’s bottom line, other than getting their name out there more and probably bringing them more business.

    Also, it backs up everything the Red and Black would be saying… that the power base is against them, that it uses finances and eventually force to keep down dissenting voices. It seems to me that it would make a lot more sense to actually engage in the Red and Black community by going to the restaurant, buying a cup of coffee, and being polite but open about whatever political or religious beliefs one has… trying to create a dialogue instead of sounds bites on both sides. Also, because the cafe is owned by all the workers, there’s no guarantee that each owner would do the same thing… it might very well be that this is the opinion of one guy, not the cafe as a whole (I don’t know that for sure, I’m just pointing out that it could be a possibility).

    I’m all for supporting the police in the midst of this, who, I agree, get a lot of flack for doing their best to support and protect us.

    I appreciate you trying to keep things positive, Cornelia.

  11. xela says

    Also, you note that the cop was not respected by the people he was trying to protect. First of all, he was not disrespectfully asked to leave. It wasn’t like there was a bunch of kids throwing coffee mugs at the guy going “pig! get out!” He was served his coffee and then calmly and respectfully asked to leave. Second, cops don’t protect actvists, they target them… they prey on them. They enter areas where they know they are not welcome wearing a decieving smile…. when they are there to track down information of activists they are targeting, to make people feel uncomfortable and unsafe, and to demonize a collective for using their RIGHT to refuse service to anyone. All with the convicing dress-up of a blue uniform that, to those who are not minorities or activists (people like you, yes… you are a member of the most priviledged race/class on planet earth), is so convincing of “protection”. That cop knew what he was doing, and you don’t know a thing about what your talking about.

  12. Mr. M says

    Next time, I think you and your daughter should just go to our neighborhood Starbucks sans the vegan food! They serve everybody with a smile. 😀

  13. Cornelia Seigneur says

    Thanks for reading and writing. I have taught at various schools, including through Portland State and Clackamas well as Portland Public Schools and West Linn Schools. Recently, you are correct, I have had the opportunity to teach at Multnomah and George Fox as adjunct instructor.

    Best regards, Cornelia Seigneur

  14. just here to help says

    HOw come you only teach at christian schools?

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