On Friday, June 26, diners at Manhattan’s elite 21 Club opened their menus expecting, as one typically does, lists of entrées and cocktails. Instead they were met with the names of black children, all under the age of 21, who were killed by the police.
A branch of the Black Lives Matter movement, the Never 21 Collective slipped into the restaurant and, disguising two of their members as servers, provided guests with “menus” listing the names of Tamir Rice, Cameron Tillman, and many other black youths - some of whom will never see their sixteenth birthday, let alone their twenty-first.
Meanwhile, additional Never 21 activists took to the balcony to create a chilling visual juxtaposition. Around the necks of the restaurant’s famed lawn jockeys—a symbol of white affluence if ever there was one—hung black signs with white lettering, spelling out the movement’s name and refrain, “Black Lives Matter.” From Never 21:
“Countless underaged lives have been lost at the hands of self proclaimed ‘vigilantes’ and disgruntled police officers. These youth were never given the chance to see age 21 or any age there after so we respond by reminding the public of the battle we are still actively fighting.”
The Collective further emphasized that “this was not intended to be an attack on the 21 Club itself.” Rather, it offered the chic establishment the opportunity to ally itself with “a movement that needs all of the allies it can get.”
Alas, the patronage did not exactly rise to the occasion. One petulant diner tossed his menu aside with the remark “I’m not racist. I don’t need this.” And in a flagrantly disturbing display of poor taste, another nervously joked, “I’ll take the VonDerritt Meyers Jr.” At the time of the flash mob, the 21 Club was entirely filled with white patrons.
Committed to preserving the memories of black children killed by the police, the Never 21 Collective employs “creative direct action” to engage the public. This is their second initiative. For their first, they infiltrated the Forever 21 in Union Square, dressing the storefront mannequins in Black Lives Matter tee-shirts.
Video via Vimeo.