By JR Valrey
Throughout the Covid shelter in place, over this last year, there have been a number of run-ins between the Black community and Asian communities, in the Bay Area and internationally. Racial tension has been heightened because of the downturn of the world’s economy, created by the pandemic. Everyone has been on edge looking for another ethnicity to blame for this current day, financial situation. Former President Trump called Covid, “the Kung Flu”, live on television, in an attempt to prejudice the public against the Chinese. And just as shamefully, last April, a number of African immigrants in the city of Guangzhou, in China, were illegally expelled from their houses, arrested, terrorized, and forced to live outside because there, the rumor was being spread that the Africans were the original vectors, for the biological agent. Recently, the Bay Area has been plagued with a string of violent robberies against Asian elders, with at least one of the culprits who have been caught, reportedly is a Black male.
Looking back into the 20th century, Black people from all around the world worked with their Asian counterparts to fight colonialism and imperialism. Malcolm X was profoundly impacted by who he met and what he learned, in Jakarta, Indonesia at the Bandung Conference. The founding father of Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh attended meetings of Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association, and made comparisons in his own writings between the treatment of Vietnamese people under French and US colonialism, and the treatment of Black people in the United States. Huey P. Newton and the Black Panther Party had a profound respect for the writings and actions of the founding father of the Chinese nation, Mao Tse Tung. One of the Panthers first fundraisers for the organization was selling “The Red Book” by Chairman Mao. The Black Panther Party was even invited to China to meet Mao, but he was too sick to hold an audience, and the Panthers ended up meeting with other people in his administration. Boxing champ Muhammed Ali refused to be inducted into the army to fight in Vietnam, because as he stated to the mainstream media at the time, “no Vietnamese ever called me nigger”.
Today, there are people in both the Asian communities and the Black community, that know that we have more in common, in this racist nation than we have differences, but the question remains will cooler more politically astute heads get involved with this incident, where a Black woman was verbally abused and assaulted by the Asian small business owner, at Cafe Tapioca, 1581 Sycamore Ave, in Hercules? Or will the Black community have to put together a militant force to defend Jessica Breaux and her daughter from racist attacks, originating from the accusations of the owner of Cafe Tapioca? Time will tell. The Black community also needs to counter-rally against the business owner and his supporters, who are opportunistically using the racial polarity that the country is immersed in, to benefit financially. The stakes are high, and the Bay Area’s Black community can not afford to let our guards down against anti-Black business owners, no matter their ethnicity or nationality. We need to directly address this small business owner, and his counter-rallying supporters who are attempting to intimidate. Here is Jessica Breaux and Skylar’s story.
JR Valrey: What happened at Cafe Tapioca on Feb. 22nd, at the Hercules location Sycamore?
Jessica Breaux: On Monday about mid-afternoon after going to the Home Depot in the plaza, I decided to get a drink at Cafe Tapioca. It used to be one of my favorite spots after school, while I was in high school. It was a hang out spot for us students at Hercules High. My child Skylar, 11 months old, was asleep and I was parked right in front of the door so I ran in to get a drink. When I walked in the shop, it was totally different from what I had been used to before. I made mention of that to the man behind the counter, who was friendly and made small talk. He said he was the owner and it was his establishment. You could tell he was very proud, and I congratulated him on the changes. I ordered my drink, a strawberry slush with tapioca. As I waited for my drink I walked out the shop to check on Sky. She was awake. I returned into the shop with her on my hip. I was given my drink, which was a smoothie, and I told him that I had ordered a slush. He instantly started yelling, “That’s why I don’t like to serve you people. It’s always a problem with you Black folk. I am the owner, I can do what I want”.
I’m like, what does this have to do with my drink? He pushed the drink across the counter towards me and my child, the drink burst when it hit the floor. Boba drinks have plastic cover over the top, for you to punch your straw through. I’m like are you freaking kidding me, I walked my child out to the car, and returned. I was trying to be really patient, and asked the guy if he could make a slush or not. If not, I want my money back. As I’m standing off to the side, he brings a drink, which is the same drink he made the first time; a smoothie. I tell him this is the same drink. He said “so, what’s the difference?” At this point I am looking around, because I am really feeling like I am on an episode of “Punk’d”. There was another man in the store who was at the Lotto machine. I believe he came in, while I was putting my daughter in the car. He told the owner that you don’t have to talk to her like that. The owner was still yelling. At this point, the other guy had gotten all upset and him and the owner got into their own full blown yelling match. I demanded my money back. The owner’s wife had now entered the store, carrying boxes from outside. She had no clue as to what was going on. He told her to give me the refund. I walked out to my car to get my wallet, which I had put in the car, when I had put Sky in the car. When I returned, she processed that refund. I left.
I spoke with both my mom and close friend, and they told me that I should have filed a report. I went back to the place and called the non-emergency police line. Officer Lopez took my statement, and did not so much as even go in, and talk to the guy. I posted this incident on my Facebook. My post was reported and removed by Facebook, which said it went against community standards. I posted again. That was deleted as well.
JR Valrey: How did the owner make you feel, as you and your child had a drink shoved at you?
Jessica Breaux: The owner made me feel little. I really was in disbelief. I was angry. I was mad. All I could really do was cry, and shake my head at how unbelievable this was.
JR Valrey: How is the owner exploiting the video footage taken of the incident? Can you talk about why you want all of the footage released, instead of just a small section?
Jessica Breaux: The video footage being shared is not of my visit to this establishment, in its entirety. The 2 people who have shared this video that has over 25 thousand views, are reported to be the owners daughter and 14 year old son. They have been directly given the footage that they want shared in their favor. I want the entire footage to be shared, so that people will know the truth, and that I am not the person they are making me out to be. I am also a pillar in my community for the work that I do.
JR Valrey: In light of numerous Asian elders being robbed all over the Bay Area, what has the owner been doing to galvanize support utilizing this incident, and this false narrative?
Jessica Breaux: There have been rallies set up in support of him, his business and his family. There has been a GoFundMe that has been created on the owners behalf, that has raised close to 2k. The councilman for the city of Hercules, Alexander Walker Griffin has given his full support, and no one has contacted me, at all as to what really happened on this day. After a week, I contacted him by email, and he said, “I am sorry all of this happened to you, I will not address any further questions on this matter. I do wish you well. This is a matter that the council can not control. I would advise you to speak to a legal council in regards to this issue. Again, I wish you well.”
JR Valrey: Can you talk about how you and your child have been directly threatened after the incident?
Jessica Breaux: I have received over 500 threats directed at me and my child via messenger, on both Facebook and Instagram. My address has been posted on both social media networks. And I have lost my job.
JR Valrey: How have the Hercules Police responded to you?
Jessica Breaux: The initial report was made. I contacted them again, in regards to my address being posted, and the threats made towards me and my child, and they said that there is nothing they could do, until something God forbid, happens to me and my child.