On D.C.’s U Street, can’t we all just swagger along?
Published: August 9 in The Washington Post

Stephen A. Crockett’s article about “swagger-jacking” on U Street [“Stealing home?,” Metro, Aug. 3] got me all jacked up. I am one of the so-called “swagger-jackers” to whom he was referring. I own two of the restaurants mentioned in the article, and although Mr. Crockett assumed I am not black, frankly, I am not sure what I am. Neither are most of my customers, though most of them seem to find my race irrelevant.

My places were never meant to be black establishments catering to black customers; they are meant to be community cultural hubs that preserve the legacy and history of the District and uplift racial and cultural connections. These connections are essential for a city whose discourse too often digresses into a racial abyss that is neither healthy nor constructive. My places and others named in Mr. Crockett’s article are essential cultural watering holes that can help create community and reconfigure the discourse.

Just days before opening my restaurant at 14th and V streets NW, I was inside waiting for my final inspections. I saw two elderly black women peering through the window. I opened the door and invited them in. They entered with some trepidation, trying to assess my swagger. Standing at the center of the space, they took in the artwork all around them. They saw the mural that depicts the civil rights struggles of the area and the history of the District. I was somewhat nervous about what they thought until I saw a tear come down one of their faces. That’s when I knew that I wasn’t “swagger-jacking.”

Andy Shallal, Washington

The writer is owner of Busboys and Poets and Eatonville restaurants.

PHOTO 2024 02 01 07 10 14

For Langston Hughes on His 123 Birthday

Speech given on February 1, 2024 in Havana, Cuba In 1927 Langston Hughes walked into a Cuba amid an emerging community of artists, intellectuals, and radicals.  He saw a “sunrise in a new land [– a day – in his words]sic – full of brownskin surprises, and hitherto unknown contacts in a world of color.”  … Continued

PALESTINE WEEK 1920 x 1080 px 2

Palestine Week 2024

January 18, 2024 – January 25, 2024 In keeping with our ongoing mission of uplifting racial and cultural connections, Busboys and Poets is hosting Palestine Week (January 18 through January 25, 2024). This week-long series of events will offer a diverse range of programming featuring Palestinian food, music, dance, poetry, discussions, and other enriching events. … Continued

Why We Are Doing Palestine Week

Why We Are Doing Palestine Week

– by Andy Shallal, CEO & Founder Busboys and Poets The past few months have been traumatizing for anyone with a cell phone and access to social media. For people living in Gaza it has been unimaginably horrific seeing entire families wiped out and most of Gaza’s inhabitants displaced, starved and without shelter. 1 in … Continued

patrick pride

Busboys and Poets Book Review: Anger is a Gift

Mark Oshiro’s contemporary YA fiction is an incredibly moving story about community, about love, and about taking a stand against prejudice and violence, even when it seems completely hopeless, and it is especially difficult to read. Especially for someone like me, caught up in my own privilege and ignorant of the struggles faced by people … Continued

158274855 10157993997527555 4956440458590202162 n

Everest Base Camp #14

Getting the key to finding your mojo. It’s 5:30 am. I am sitting upright in my bed just plain miserable. It is still dark outside. My sad excuse for sleep was horrible. 3 hours tops. Drinking 4 cups of obviously well caffeinated milk tea before bed. Dogs barking all night long. Cold feet (literally). 4 … Continued