Residents turn out to defend Humboldt Park

February 23, 2012|By Leonor Vivanco RedEye

The owner of TipsyCake bakery apologized Thursday for remarks posted online that angered the Humboldt Park community.

Residents, community activists and aldermen rallied at noon Thursday at the bakery's Humboldt Park location demanding an apology from owner Naomi Levine for her comments in a CitySoles TV interview posted on YouTube this week in which she suggested the neighborhood was dangerous. Residents posted comments on various social media outlets including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Yelp that Levine's remarks were insensitive, offensive and disparaging to the community.

VIDEO: RESIDENTS REACT TO COMMENTS MADE AGAINST NEIGHBORHOOD

"While I do not expect that every single person that was offended will accept my apology, I would like everyone to know that your comments on social media were received and educated me as to the mistakes I have made, which guided me to issue this apology," Levine wrote in a statement posted Thursday afternoon on TipsyCake's Facebook page.

In the video, she said she chose the Bucktown location at 1944 N. Damen Ave. to open a storefront where "nobody would be too scared." Levine opened TipsyCake in 2006 in Humboldt Park, where the pastries are still produced, but picked Bucktown for her shop because there were "too many gunshots in the cake" in Humboldt Park, she says in the video.

In the video, which has since been pulled from the CitySoles website and its YouTube channel, Levine highlights a caramel slice pastry she calls "crack" because "in Humboldt Park the cops would knock on the door and ask to taste the crack."

Ald. Roberto Maldonado (26th) said he was upset over the remarks in the video. "To me, that is uncalled for for her to make those inflammatory comments that many of us can construe as racist, for a business person to come here and make a living for the last seven or eight years and now we're not good enough for her business," he said.

Her comments only perpetuated the stereotypes the Humboldt Park community has fought for years, he said.

At the community protest, Ald. Proco "Joe" Moreno (1st) said, "To have comments like this that don't help move our community forward is not only just irritating, but it's disgusting."

The neighborhood, home to the Institute of Puerto Rican Arts & Culture, does have its "social ills," but it's also a community that celebrates its culture and hosts festivals, said resident Juanita Garcia, 32, who is a volunteer at the Puerto Rican Cultural Center.

"There's a lot of good things happening in the community and for someone to make outrageous comments is a reason for the community to get together and speak out against it," she said.

TipsyCake cookies are sold at one Whole Foods Market store in the Chicago area. "We take the concerns of our community very seriously and have spoken to Tipsy Cake about their communicating about this error with their customers. We look forward to any steps Tipsy Cakes takes to ensure a positive outcome for all those involved," Whole Foods said in a statement.

In her apology, Levine noted she's received threatening calls and admitted she failed to consider the implications of her words. Specifically, she addressed the crack remark, which she thought would be taken as humorous, not offensive.

"Nearly everyday since I opened the doors to my bakery, at least one customer would sample a product and tell me how it was ‘like crack.' … My only thought over all of these years, and during my comments in the interview, was that people could use that slang as a compliment to say that my food was addicting and that it was okay for me to do so as well. With respect to inserting the word ‘Humboldt' in front, I would have to apologize and accept 100% blame. What I thought was a ‘cool' play on words never crossed my mind as having implications to the presence of illegal drugs in Humboldt Park."


lvivanco@tribune.com | @lvivanco

RedEye Chicago Articles
|
|
|