Photo by Blair Ballou
Vikki Layne Terrell locked up Vikki Layne’s Bar and Grill around 6:30 in the evening on Sunday, September 29th. Sometime after that racists vandalized her business, leaving behind racial slurs and other messages to let her know that she wasn’t welcome. Terrell has been in the restaurant business four years but since she moved to downtown Hattiesburg less than a year ago, there have been problems. This latest incident was undoubtedly the worst but even so, Terrell isn’t going anywhere and plans to be around for many years to come.
The N-word was written on a mirror and “Get out” was spray-painted in the bathroom. The vandals overturned dining room tables and damaged kitchen equipment. As a final touch, “You not welcome” was left as a clear message to Terrell. Before this incident there were other hostilities, all since the restaurant relocated to downtown. Terrell told the Mississippi Clarion Ledger that people have made racist comments. A white customer actually requested to not be seated next to Blacks. Another white customer asked to be served by a white waitress. Those smaller hostilities gradually led to this latest act of terror — a familiar theme for Black owned businesses.
We should recall the 1921 massacre of Tulsa’s Black Wall Street, when hundreds of Black owned businesses were burned to the ground. In 1947 Elmore Bolling was lynched in Alabama, simply because he was becoming more successful than other whites in the area. There is no way to know how many Black business owners through the years have been murdered or terrorized, as a result of their success. What should be clear today is the potential for terror still exists, for Black entrepreneurs. Still, just as Terrell is determined to fight on, we should also persist. Ultimate liberation for Black people cannot be separated from economic power, after all.
Black progress has never been convenient, easy or void of opposition. Opposition is to be expected in life, business and especially in the quest for Black self determination — never forget that. Terrell has decided to persist and continue to build, even in the face of opposition. We should all do the same.