By Ayn Bland
A new viral movement swept Los Angeles on Sunday when thousands of white Angelenos came out for “Solidarity Brunch,” bringing together casual outdoor dining and the need for racial justice and equality in America.
“We wanted to help shine a light on the issues black America is facing today,” said Solidarity Brunch co-creator Kaleigh Andrews. Rather than protesting, contacting political representatives, or donating to relevant organizations like Black Lives Matter Los Angeles or the People’s City Council Freedom Fund, Andrews said she “felt like brunch was the best way to bring attention to this super important issue.”
Created by Andrews and her Silver Lake roommate Ashley Nicols, the viral movement, which saw brunches across Silver Lake, Malibu, Beverly Hills, and Santa Monica, began as the germ of an idea among friends. “It’s literally hilarious – we were having brunch and talking about how upset we were seeing these videos of police brutalizing black people and protestors clogging up our feeds – all of a sudden, this huge mass of people came by chanting ‘Black Lives Matter!’ We would’ve joined, but we still had half a pitcher of mimosa left. Just as they were just out of earshot, I whispered “Brunch Life Matters!” and my friend Ashley turned to me and said: “Oh my God, Kay – Brunch.”
“We instantly realized that we could use our voice, our passion and our anger for something greater than ourselves,” explains Nichols. Andrews made a graphic on her phone, triple-checked it wasn’t black square day again, and shared it on Instagram. By the time they got home, more than 1,700 people had shared it, including Silver Lake restaurant “Gentry Fried.”
“It’s literally the least we could do,” said Gentry Fried owner Kyle Blake. “We wanted to make it loud and clear to our neighbors and our community where we stand on the issues of our time without actually saying or changing anything.”
To honor George Floyd, all of the brunch attendees ate pancakes and sipped mimosas in silence for eight minutes and forty-six seconds, the same amount of time Floyd is seen being held with a knee to his neck in the video of his arrest. “It really let us savor the flavors of the moment,” said one attendee who would not share his name for fear that there were better ways to help Black Americans he wasn’t aware of.
When asked whether the movement would be viewed as insensitive to protests going on across the country, Nichols was adamant that it wouldn’t. “Just this morning I shared a picture on my feed that said ‘Activism isn’t a one-way street’ – brunch is justour street. Plus, my Wag Walker is Black and I asked her about it and she said it was fine.”
Given how many shares their graphic got, Andrew and Nichols said they knew they had to start organizing. “It was really hard work,” says Andrews. “Tagging, commenting, emailing – organizing a movement is really hard work. I even made a couple phone calls.”
Nichols says one of the hardest parts of their work was deciding on a dress code. “Attending the Solidarity Brunch was important, but even more important was to make sure everyone knows that you went to the Solidarity Brunch…Seeing all of my white friends wearing all-white in honor of black people we don’t even know – it truly does prove that symbols speak louder than actions.”
The Avocado asked Nichols if the all-white dress code might be considered tone deaf for obvious reasons, but Nichols disagreed: “First of all, I don’t see color, and white and black aren’t even colors. Second, we put a lot of thought into this. Everyone saw what happened when we posted the black squares without thinking too much about it. We didn’t make that mistake again.”
To aid their efforts, they hired professional photographers, videographers, social media strategists, and a public relations expert “so that everyone would know just how hard we brunched for Black people…That’s why we asked everyone who attended to use the hashtag #BrunchLifeMatters and #BLM.”
Andrews and Nichols worked with Blake to create several custom cocktails for the event, including the “Pepper Spray,” which featured Hennessy, blackberries, peppercorns, club soda and lime and had “a real kick to it,” said Nichols. But Andrews says the event was about more than just sipping cocktails while others marched.
“Solidarity Brunch was about bridging divisions, that’s why we split the from the drink sales evenly between the ACLU and the Police Benevolent Association. “I can’t believe I have to say this in 2020, but police need to be more benevolent towards Black people.” While she didn’t research what Policemen’s Benevolent Associations actually do, she said her intentions were more important than educating herself.
Asked to comment, a representative from The Police Benevolent Association said that they were happy to “take these idiots’ money” since there were no requirements to stop killing black people, profiling minorities, violating human rights, or tear-gassing peaceful protestors.
As for timing, Nichols says it was vital to host the brunch before Silver Lake residents moved on to “the next viral and social trend ” – which she calls a “real concern” considering how few Black residents she sees at the Silver Lake dog park, though she’s pretty sure there are at least two.
While Gentry Fried says they did discuss whether to implement social distancing measures given black Americans are three times more likely to die of Covid-19 than their white counterparts, they decided it was more important to get as many people in the restaurant as possible. “This was our chance to make a difference,” Blake said. “We didn’t want to let the Black community down.”