After Racist Statement to Customer, La Diva on Franklin Avenue Comes Under Protest

A crowd gathered around La Diva clothing store on Thursday, June 18, to protest racist comments made by the employee two days earlier. Courtesy of Qween Amor’s Facebook page. The store closed down during these actions.

This is a story, in Qween Amor’s own words, “of racism, transphobia, and violence, and how we respond to it.” 

This is also a story that major local news outlets have not deemed worthy of coverage – despite getting over 1,400 shares on social media. 

This is a story about La Diva clothing store on Franklin Avenue. 

On June 16, Qween Amor was trying on clothes at this beauty store when she noticed a fellow customer walk back into the store. The customer had left her phone on the counter while checking out, and she needed it back.

According to Amor’s post, which has since gone viral, the employee behind the register was unwilling at first.

What he said after that left Qween “floored.”

Some black people will be like, ‘oh that’s my phone,’” the employee said, to the black customer. 

He had told the customer that he was reluctant because he thought black people tended to steal phones.

“She was literally standing there begging for her phone back,” Amor said in the post. 

The customer did get her phone back, but not before being subjected to that indignity. 

Amor, a medic and EMT by trade, is also an activist. Central to her activism is using music to communicate and using her body as a way to reclaim space for marginalized communities. In 2016, Amor gained notoriety for dancing in front of Evangelical protesters during DC Pride. “God is in everyone,” she said, countering the message and overwhelming the efforts of the Evangelical nay-sayers. 

Qween Amor organizes direct actions to respond to racism on local levels. And when she heard this comment, she had to speak up. 

“Why would you automatically assume she was lying about losing the phone and trying to steal it?” she asked. 

La Diva then kicked Ms. Amor out of the store. 

Amor walked out of the store, took a picture of the storefront, and opened the door to briefly take a photo of the employee. In response, he grabbed a metal rod and chased her out, nearly swinging at her. 

According to Ms. Amor, he also yelled slurs at her, insulting her gender and sexuality. 

The employee who made the racist remark is seen charging at Qween Amor with a metal pipe, after she attempted to get his photo. According to Ms. Amor, he also insulted her gender and sexuality. Courtesy of Qween Amor’s Facebook page.

In response to this, Ms. Amor organized several demonstrations outside of La Diva on June 17 and June 18. 

On June 17, the morning after the incident, an early protester told the store operator, “I bet you won’t make [any] money today,” when he arrived to open for business.

And she was right. 

Upon hearing this, the store operator then re-locked the gate and left. 

Despite organizing an action the very morning after the incident, there were enough people there to prevent the store from opening up on both June 17 and June 18. Qween’s protests garnered a significant presence in front of the store. Cars driving by honked at them in support. 

“No longer in our communities can we accept racism and transphobia,” Qween said to the crowd of demonstrators on Thursday, June 18. “We need to support businesses that uphold the black community … that do not vilify the black community as thieves, liars, thugs, drug dealers. This is not who we are.” 

Qween continued: “You don’t accuse someone of lying and stealing, when they were the only [expletive] people in the store. … And if you really did question whether this phone was this woman’s, you could have looked at security footage.

“You could have asked her to unlock her phone. But to make remarks to deny this woman her phone because she is black, and you think that black people lie and steal? No.”

“How do you make a fortune off of black people, and then treat them like shit?” a protester queried. 

According to the Secretary of State business search, La Diva is operated by Y Brothers, LLC. Abdelkarim Abdelbaqi is the registered agent, and Mr. Abdelbaqi is the agent of several other limited liability corporations in the area. The protesters also shut down all other stores in the area that are allegedly owned by Y Brothers, LLC. 

Qween Amor addresses the protesters and gives her experience on June 18, 2020, in front of the shuttered La Diva store. Courtesy of Qween Amor’s Facebook page.

It is uncertain whether protests continued beyond June 18, or if they will continue to demonstrate into this upcoming week.

What is certain, however, is that Qween Amor is steadfast, unwavering in her quest for justice in New Orleans. And Qween is willing to stand with the community to seek redress from racist, sexist, transphobic business owners who operate in New Orleans.

The message is clear: In New Orleans, the community will no longer tolerate racism. And that is an important message right now, as protests continue to occur nationwide almost a month after the murder of George Floyd. 

“We need to take a stand against racism as a community. We need to call that shit out every time that we see it, everywhere,” Qween said to dozens of protesters on June 18. 

“And sometimes that means being a target. Because when you call out racism, when you call out injustice, that makes you a target. And that’s fine. … You can drag my name all you want. Good luck, because I’m fighting for what I believe in.”

Qween Amor has also organized an online petition to pressure Congress to make violence against the LGBTQ community a hate crime. You can view it here.

Big Easy Magazine reached out to La Diva for comment and has received no response. 

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