In 1972, Governor George Wallace of Alabama, while running for president, was campaigning in Laurel, Maryland when he was shot. Wallace was the icon of hate. In the many years prior, and for many years to come, Laurel would be no stranger to racial tensions. From cross burnings to Klan rallies, Laurel, and its Main Street was once a hotbed of such tensions. In 1967, four men and a juvenile engaged in an apparent initiation ceremony into the Ku Klux Klan by attempting arson of a home in the predominantly African American neighborhood of Laurel Grove in Laurel, Maryland.
As I walked down Main Street on this blistering humid 100 degree Summer afternoon, I could see remnants of Klan activity, of course these are only in my mind. However, the look and feel of Main Street screams confederate flag territory. Then you stumble upon an oasis in the desert, More Than Java Cafe’ – a family owned Cafe.
African Peace Lily
When you walk inside the air smells like an African peace lily. It is a refuge from the sun and the menu invites you to desire more than you can drink or eat. I was on a mission. There were a plethora of options from coconut cake, wine ice cream, smoothies and cold sandwiches (vegan/vegetarian). A friend had been there just a week ago and marveled at the watermelon ginger juice. I scanned the menu for what seemed like a lifetime before giving up. ‘Excuse me… a friend recommended watermelon ginger juice, do you have any today”, I asked. From behind the counter a very nice lady pointed me to a glass fridge but they were sold out. I was disappointed but quickly refocused on the menu board of delights. Green Machine Smoothie it is!
“How long have you been open?”, I asked. “We just celebrated our one year anniversary on June 26th” she proclaimed with a wide smile. I asked her name. “Tabitha”, she responded. “Are you the owner?’” She smiled again, “Yes, I am”. “It’s a pleasure to meet you”, “I’m Abu” “a—b—u” I spelled it out – a bad habit I picked up from so many people asking ‘WHO?’ after I tell them my name. “…and you are?” she asks my Director of Media. “I’m Amanda”. We intentionally kept it from Ms. Tabitha that we were there to spy on her for a subsequent review for RankTribe™.
We just celebrated our one year anniversary on June 26th
We took a seat near the window. While looking around and taking notes we admired the art, the books, the music, the people and the vibe. This was truly an oasis – mixed crowd just shy of the ‘hippie’ label, us included. A sista with a natural afro working on her laptop, a brother with his companion on the sofa engaged in deep conversation, several other patrons sipping on various beverages, an author of children’s books (Johnny Lamirande, The Lost Island) set up at a table marked ‘reserved’ – then there were, us. The spies?
“How do you like the smoothie?”, asked Amanda. At first I said “It’s ok” as I was still disappointed about the missing watermelon ginger juice. After I regained my composure I corrected myself “It’s good”, I said. “This is a nice spot, l’ll definitely be back”, Amanda declared. Neither of us wanted to leave. The atmosphere was great. By the time we finished our smoothies every seat was filled and the line at the register was starting to get longer. Just before we left a hostess asked Amanda, “How did you like your smoothie?” Amanda responded, “It was excellent. Thank you!” The owner and hostess’ hospitality added a nice touch to the quaint cafe. Main Street has come a long way from its racist past. It was delightful to see such diversity and class in one small cafe.
by Abu Akh and Amanda Jordan.