By Lee Edwards, Chicago Crusader
Black Lives Matter (BLM) Chicago organizers held a protest calling for a boycott of beauty supply store Missha Beauty, 642 E. 47th, on March 18 in response to video footage depicting an African American woman being assaulted by an Asian American Missha store owner in Charlotte, NC.
For over an hour, protesters in Chicago waved black, red, and green colored flags, handed out leaflets with addresses to nearby African American owned beauty supply stores, and chanted for the Missha location to be boycotted and shuttered.
BLM Chicago organizer Kofi Ademola Xola said he and other community-based organizations were asked by local community members to lead the protest against the Kenwood store until its doors close permanently. He said members of the community that he’s spoken with are beyond any attempts to reconcile the relationship between the store and the community. Yet, should the community change its mind, he’s open to facilitating their wishes.
“People across the country are responding to this and this particular chain is connected to the one in North Carolina and so we’ve made the call to boycott this particular business and in turn support Black owned businesses,” said Xola. “We are supporting this boycott and redirecting our people to invest in their own community. Don’t support any businesses that abuse us, that don’t care about our lives. It doesn’t matter if it happened in Atlanta, Los Angeles, wherever, we have to show unity across the country that we won’t tolerate our people being abused.”
According to a Huffington Post report, Missha Beauty store owner Sung Ho Lim opted to strike an unarmed African American woman multiple times before taking her to the ground and placing her in a headlock for attempting to flee after allegedly stealing from the store. The woman vehemently refutes claims that she engaged in any illegal activity. Charlotte resident Nancy Wilson, a witness to the incident, posted the original video on Facebook on March 9, that has since gone viral with more than 292,000 views.
Although no incidents of violence have taken place at the Kenwood location, Xola said local residents told him they felt unwelcome by Missha employees by receiving “suspicious looks” and feeling “surveilled” while visiting the store. Xola explained too that residents are fed up with non-African American owned businesses not supporting the community in which they conduct business.
Ronnie Man Hatcher, community organizer for Rise Up Chicago, said the protest was held to hold the Missha Beauty chain accountable for both their actions in North Carolina, as well as not investing in the communities in which they’re located. He said he has no desire to speak with the owners of the company except to ask them to leave the community. He noted that in order to address the violence and dis-investment into African American communities, African American owned businesses must be present to circulate revenue within neighborhoods.
“We have to do for ourselves, control our own businesses, control the dollars circulating through our community and then you won’t see the death, destruction and desolation,” said Hatcher.
Jonathan Chee, spokesperson for Missha Beauty’s owner Jeffrey Han, said the store has not had a single incident of violence or unfair treatment in the five years since it open- ed.
The video that’s been circulated throughout social media is only an excerpt of the entire altercation, said Chee. He said the reason the establishment’s security camera footage has not been released in its entirety is because it’s the company’s hope to address the outrage without exacerbating the situation.
“We want to show this to the community first… we’re trying to keep this under wraps and tell everyone this is what we did,” said Chee. “We don’t want to do this in the media because all this video is going to do is going to have a negative impact on the Black community and we don’t want that because we’re both minorities and we should stick together. We have to be united.”
Chee described the protest and calls for boycotts “unreasonable” because community organizers have declined invitations to speak with him or Han regarding the video. In response to claims that Missha has not benefitted the local community, he stated over the years the store has participated in Thanksgiving turkey giveaways, donated school supplies for Back-To-School drives, and has participated in winter coat giveaways.
“Reasonable would be for them to come talk to us and see what they want from us and not just close down the place based on half of a fact that they have, they should look at both sides of the coin,” said Chee. “They’re not even willing to do that.”
“This is what Trump’s America wants us to do, to divide us, for us to fight among minorities, this is what they’re after and they’re falling right into it,” said Chee.