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Carlton Fletcher

“A man’s a man who looks a man right between the eyes.”

— Graham Nash

My initial response was typical. Anger.

I don’t have but a few friends in this world, and when one of them is slammed on social media or in any other manner, I was ready to defend that friend’s honor.

Here’s what spurred my anger, a Facebook post by some person apparently named King-La’Keit Randall:

As most of you know, if you’ve lived in Albany, Dunbar’s is one of our ICONIC black owned businesses. BJ Fletcher and I have had a previous run-in before when I called out how people love to come into the black community and get our money and don’t give back. So if you’ve been to Dunbar’s before, they used to have a Blue Plate Special. Now the perplexing thing about this is that BJ’s new restaurant is named, BJ’s Blue Plate. Then she opened this spot DIRECTLY BEHIND DUNBAR’S, serving the EXACT SAME FOOD. I just wanna know how people are so comfortable doing this to us on our side of town and we not do anything about it. We should be FLOODING Dunbar’s and making sure she doesn’t get one nickel. You can call her and tell her I said it! You can say what you want, but I find this UNACCEPTABLE, especially when I see “us” patronizing. I’ve heard a few people whisper about this but I want all the smoke!

My anger subsided somewhat, though, when I found out a little more about the person who made the post. Apparently, he’s a self-proclaimed “community hero” who’s trying to make a name for himself as an “activist.” He became angry, it would seem from his post, at Fletcher, an Albany city commissioner and restaurateur, when, at a commission meeting after Randall quoted scriptures to prove some point, Fletcher said, “Sir, it seems you have a knowledge of the Bible. Are you aware of the part about not judging people and loving all?”

As pay-back, it appears, the Bible-quoting activist decided to attack Fletcher’s business.

Interestingly, when someone defended Fletcher and posted on Randall’s site that she supported both Fletcher’s and Dunbar’s businesses and that race should not be a determining factor in such decisions, Randall said he didn’t bring race into his post.

Let’s see ... “our side of town” ... “doing this to us” ... “I find this unacceptable, especially when I see us patronizing.” Umm, yeah, you did bring race into it.

Oh, and he took the post from the lone person who challenged him off his Facebook page. Bold.

As I said, I felt anger at someone attacking a friend. But I also love the food at Dunbar’s and approved a story on the restaurant recently so that this newspaper could feature a locally owned business. I would actually congratulate someone for sticking up for a local businessperson if the person did so in a decent manner. But to trot out the “us vs. them” and “our side of town” bull because of a personal beef is the perfect example of small-mindedness.

I know many of Fletcher’s employees personally, and while I have no insight into their personal or business relationships with her, I can say that she has placed a tremendous amount of trust in many of those employees who are African American. One, Demetrius Lumpkin, who’s worked with Fletcher for five years, said using race to attack her is a low blow.

“B.J. gives many people — a lot of them black people — opportunities that other businesses wouldn’t, and to imply that she is racist is ridiculous,” Lumpkin said. “I can personally say that, from the time I’ve worked with her, she treats all employees the same, black or white.”

Yes, my initial reaction to this hullabaloo was anger. Now, it’s just sadness. I find it sad that someone who says he wants to help make the community better resorts to that old Albany standby — racism — to “get back” at someone who responded to his criticism in a way that perhaps embarrassed him. I’ll say this, though: When Fletcher responded to Randall at the commission meeting, she did so in an open forum with dozens of people present. She didn’t resort to a cowardly Facebook post with words that appeal to an audience’s basest emotions.

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