The restaurant bail-out won’t save my pop-up. The government won’t save black America. (Esquire)

Before COVID-19, Omar Tate opened a portal to Blackness with his lauded pop-up Honeysuckle. Now he’s back home in Philly, searching for solutions.

I have been known for telling the truth even if it hurts, even if it cries you to sleep. This winter COVID-19 and the restaurant industry told me a truth that sent me to bed rocking myself, searching for answers.

I began my journey with Honeysuckle, a pop-up that explored the narrative of Black existence, in pursuit of creating a platform for myself to challenge what fine dining was and who was allowed to participate in it. Honeysuckle dinners primarily happened out of a penthouse on Wall Street, high above the site of one of America’s more prominent slave auction blocks. (I partnered with a platform called Resident that hosted dinners in luxury residential units.) When you walked into a Honeysuckle dinner you entered into a portal of Blackness that made the joys and pains of existing kith and kin. Upon sitting, you stirred into a glass a pulverized mixture of freeze dried fruit, sugar, and acid mimicking “Kool Aid.” The drink of my childhood. A nod to joy around my dinner table and a debasing of the stigma associated with Black folks. I worked with other artists to adorn the walls, carefully chose the music, and used my own poetry through the meal to welcome you into a living room of funkadelic blues chords strumming into your soul. Most guests left thankful and introspective. Some left unsatisfied and felt that the meal was unworthy of the $150 minimum price tag. Either reaction was the reaction that I was looking for.

Just two months ago I was featured in The New York Times. Everything was looking up. I had speaking engagements. Participated in panels. I was writing. Applying ideas of affirmation through a Black lens for a meal that paralleled the experience of a Michelin star-caliber restaurant. Honeysuckle was real. It was peaking as an event and as a philosophy. I had been adding to the conversation of power shifting…

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