The Athens Anti-Discrimination Movement took to the streets again last Friday after the second complaint was filed against a downtown bar since the ACC Commission passed an anti-discrimination ordinance.
The most recent complaint—against Jerzees, a bar that was frequently cited in a 2015 UGA Student Government Association report on discrimination at student bars downtown—was filed on Nov. 8 and sparked a march on Nov. 17. About 100 chanting and sign-carrying participants marched from the Arch past Jerzees and 9d’s—the subject of another complaint—to City Hall.
Jerzees manager Jarrod Miller, who is black, told WUGA 91.7 FM that he was blindsided by the complaint and supports what the AADM is doing. “We do a lot of sensitivity training for our staff as far as understanding that we’re not here to discriminate against people based on their age, religion, gender, their sexual orientation, their race. It does not matter,” Miller said.
But AADM co-founder Mokah Jasmine Johnson and others contend that, even though bars are now required to post dress codes and can’t arbitrarily enforce them to keep out certain groups, the practice is still widespread.
“Denying people of color, denying people because of sexual orientation—they are breaking the law,” said Grady Martin, chairman of the Mayor’s Task Force on Inclusion, a group created when the commission passed the discrimination ordinance.
Mariah Parker, a hip-hop artist who performs under the name Lingua Franca, said she and several friends of color have been banned from downtown bars in cases of mistaken identity. But the real issue, she said, is that bar owners don’t believe African Americans have any money to spend.
School board member and potential District 9 commission candidate Ovita Thornton joked that she’s “too old to go” to bars, but the issue of racism is broader than that. “We need to talk about it in our schools,” she said. “We need to talk about it in our housing. We need to talk about it in our politics.”
Meanwhile, the first discrimination complaint filed under the ordinance is on hold. 9d’s owner Mark Bell sued ACC earlier this year alleging that the ordinance violated his constitutional rights. That lawsuit has been transferred from state to federal court, and while it is pending, a hearing on the first complaint is on hold, according to ACC Attorney Bill Berryman, but he expects the lawsuit to be dismissed soon. Hearings on other complaints will be held as they come in, though, Berryman said.
Demond Means Goes on Tour
Clarke County School Superintendent Demond Means has scheduled four “community engagement sessions” around the city in the coming week. They are:
• Tuesday, Nov. 28 from 6:30–7:30 p.m. at the Rocksprings Community Center.
• Wednesday, Nov. 29 from 6–7:30 p.m. at the ACC Library.
• Thursday, Nov. 30 from 6–7:30 p.m. at Coile Middle School.
• Wednesday, Dec. 6 from 4–5:30 p.m. at the Rolling Ridge apartment complex.
A previous session, Nov. 8 at the East Athens Community Center, was canceled because Means was ill and hasn’t been rescheduled.
Means is also scheduled to give the keynote address at an event billed as “The Crisis in Black Education” Saturday, Dec. 2 from 1–3 p.m. at H.T. Edwards.
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