Baltimore, MD-based restaurant Jimmy’s Famous Seafood recently issued an apology to Black-owned vegan business Vegan Hippie Cafe following racists insults that were prompted by a Twitter post. It all started when Jimmy’s retweeted an image of vegan crab cakes that Vegan Hippie Cafe owner Dominique Williamson posted, alongside a photo of actor Will Smith giving a disapproving look. When Williamson saw the post, she replied with a meme of talk show host Wendy Williams and a tweet questioning why a restaurant with more than 100,000 followers would single out her small business.
The next morning, Jimmy’s tweeted a screenshot of an email from one of Williamson’s supporters: “I think your social media manager really needs to consider the effect of their words to an audience of over 100,000 people, and how it will affect real people and small businesses who don’t have the same platform as you,” the unidentified supporter wrote. Jimmy’s responded: “Which one of you butthurt vegans tried snitching?”
Another Twitter user suggested that Williamson’s supporters leave negative reviews for the seafood restaurant. Jimmy’s retweeted the suggestion, adding “You think the Jimmy’s Army won’t return the favor?”
With that, the Twitter storm escalated, and Williamson began receiving hateful messages through her website. “They’re spamming the chat section on my site and calling me a n***** now,” Williamson tweeted. “All of this over some crab cakes? Y’all please stop. Please”
“Just in case you don’t know, @veganhippiesol is my daughter and this momma does not play,” Williamson’s mother tweeted. “We’re a plant-based family and since [stet] Jimmys Seafood thinks it’s okay to pick on a small Black woman-owned business she’s getting threats, called a n***** and her followers are being harassed.”
Within days, Jimmy’s deleted its tweets about Williamson’s food and posted an apology: “Over the weekend, we posted a Will Smith meme questioning vegan crab cakes, as we have for years,” the restaurant wrote. “While we aren’t crazy about vegan recipes, we hate racists. We condemn anyone who insulted Vegan Hippie Sol. We apologize to you and @justmontina [Williamson’s mother], and wish you and your business the best.”
Jimmy’s Seafood is known for its anti-vegan sentiments—which it often uses as a marketing tactic—and in 2018, erected a billboard of steamed dead crabs in response to a PETA billboard that read, “I’m ME, not MEAT. See the individual. Go Vegan.”
Williamson recently released the Vegan Hippie Sol: Plant-Based Recipes for the Soul cookbook which features recipes for sausage biscuits and gravy, barbecue pulled pork sandwiches, coconut creamed corn, and more. The Vegan Hippie Sol Cafe is currently operating out of Atlanta, GA as a food delivery business and Williamson plans to open a food truck to continue her mission of eliminating the stigma around veganism.