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Monday, January 9, 2012

Five Questions with Phillip Agnew, creator of the Charlotte Black Card

When 25-year-old Phillip Agnew was arrested at the Charlotte entertainment complex, The EpiCentre, last summer, he started a movement that brought praise and scorn his way. According to published reports, he was arrested because he wouldn't turn his hat around -- at an outside event.
Agnew said his arrest was racially motivated, a complaint about the EpiCentre that has floated around the black community in the Queen City since the place opened.
Agnew took it public, fighting the arrest and launching a protest against the EpiCentre. Then he went one step further, launching the Black Card, a movement in Charlotte to bring solidarity and economic empowerment to the city's African American-owned businesses.

Agnew spoke to me about the Black Card, what it means to Charlotte and how he feel about the EpiCentre today.
A note about the EpiCentre, after Agnew's high profile arrest, other groups of people reported discrimination against the establishment and the EpiCentre faces foreclosure.

You launched the Black Card in 2011, how has the response been from businesses and customers?

The response has been exciting and overwhelmingly positive.  We think that an initiative like this one is much needed and long overdue.  The buying power of our community is incredibly large and growing, so harnessing that power is extremely important for our community.  2012 will see some exciting changes with our initiative, though our goals: unity, solidarity, and economic empowerment will continue to heavily influence each project.

Why do you think this card is important to Charlotte? 

This initiative will soon be bigger than Charlotte.  Black people from coast-to-coast must make a concerted effort to see our dollars circulate in our neighborhoods and communities. But Charlotte was an obvious choice: it is is a banking center, saw thousands of layoffs and has a thriving Black business community.  We think that our City is a perfect incubator for an undertaking like this, and the community has really rallied behind it.  We will soon be expanding to Chicago and Atlanta. Charlotte is only the beginning, but it is the perfect place to start.

There’s been talk about changes at the EpiCentre, do you think this is too little too late?
I do.   The EpiCentre, the Music Factory and a number of other venues have long been unwelcome to Black people.  These venues are not marketed to us; they aren’t developed with us in mind, and are generally unwelcome…until CIAA.  This has gone unchecked for years, long before my case.  I am happy that they are attempting to make a change, but until there is equality in treatment of all patrons, it will not be enough.It’s important to note that true change will not happen, anywhere, until we demand it. I don’t plan on our fight being a flash in the pan.  I want club owners and restaurateurs to know that we will continue to watch, continue to speak out, and continue to act until the problem is eliminated.

You were named QCity Metro’s newsmaker of the year, what were your thoughts on that?
It was an honor. I have the utmost respect for Mr. Burkins, Michaela, Carlton and all of the great men and women at QCity Metro. They’ve reported consistently about the incident since June. But, I have a much more work to finish before I truly feel deserving. What I did paled in comparison to the great accomplishments of many across the city, but I was excited nonetheless.  I’m 26 years old: who wouldn’t be? But it was a list of newsmakers, not world changers, or social activists.  2012 will see our team’s commitment to our mission grow and become more focused on true change.

The CIAA is coming, if you could tell promoters and party goers anything about the EpiCentre, what would it be?
I’ve never changed my stance: do not enter the EpiCentre. For 357 days, we are made to feel unwelcome.Nevertheless, the lack of social access for Blacks in the city makes this impractical.  We have some things planned for CIAA, though.Many of those venues in the EpiCentre and the Music Factory are more than willing to accept our dollars during this week.I would hope that people are wiser with where they spend their time and money. We will be distributing some literature to increase awareness about what to do if you or anyone in your party is discriminated against. We do have a right to enjoy this city. It’s important that we defend that right.


sonia diana said...

i remember a few years ago here in new orleans a black young man was killed by bouncers outside of a club on bourbon street. it was a sugar bowl weekend. he was denied entrance into the club because he wasnt wearing a button down shirt. i am happy that mr. agnew is doing something to create a culture of change in your city.

CherisH said...

Wow, Sonia. Many people need to wake up and realize what's going on in the world. Killed for a dress code? That is terrible.