Wrongfully convicted men open restaurant in Brooklyn

Discussion in 'Career, Work, Finances and Education' started by Ockydub, Dec 8, 2016.

  1. Ockydub

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    They went from serving time to serving customers in their own restaurant.

    Wrongfully convicted New Yorkers Derrick Hamilton and Shabaka Shakur met in prison while serving time for murders they didn’t commit — now they’re dishing out tuna tartare, crab cake and sirloins at their new restaurant and bar, Brownstone, in Downtown Brooklyn.

    “I had somebody tell me they thought I would be in the restaurant business and I told them they were crazy,” Hamilton, who like Shakur, is now exonerated, tells the Daily News.

    He and Shakur became self-taught lawyers at Auburn Correctional Facility in Central New York where they worked tirelessly toward their release. Both were victims of disgraced former NYPD detective Louis Scarcella who allegedly coerced witnesses, fabricated evidence and concealed proof of defendants’ innocence.

    Hamilton, now 51, was convicted for murder in 1992 after being charged with shooting a man named Nathaniel Cash in Bedford-Stuyvesant. He spent 20 years behind bars, and was released in 2011, before being exonerated last year.Shakur, now 52, spent 27 years in jail after a jury found him guilty in 1989 of a double homicide. He was also freed last year.

    The men spent most of their lives fighting for survival in jail, relentlessly writing letters to lawyers and just about anyone who would read them. Despite the grave injustice they faced, the pair show no bitterness.

    “I believe in people,” says Shakur. “I knew it was a matter of time before someone who really cared about the justice system would do something about it. It was a waiting game.”

    Their restaurant is a nod to Brooklyn, the same borough they were falsely charged in. There’s a massive mural of the Brooklyn bridge leading into the dining room with the welcoming words: “Come in as a stranger, leave as a friend.”

    They wanted the sprawling space to feel like the neighborhood bar from the sitcom “Cheers.”

    “We never ran away from Brooklyn because of what happened,” says Hamilton. “You’re either part of the problem or part of the solution.”

    That means a commitment to helping ex-cons get jobs. Three are currently employed at the eatery.

    “We want to give these guys an opportunity. They’ve been our hardest workers,” says Hamilton.

    Before jail, Hamilton worked as a mechanic’s assistant prior to opening a unisex hair salon in New Haven, Connecticut where he was arrested. Shakur worked registering deeds and mortgages.

    The only experience they had in food service was working in a prison commissary.

    “I never got past the serving line,” Hamilton, who says he spent most of his time in the library with legal books, admits.

    [​IMG]

    Shakur started off scrubbing pots and pans and worked his way up to cooking quick meals like burgers and chili in the kitchen.

    “You can imagine how many pots and pans I was scrubbing with burnt food,” Shakur says. “It’s the most messy and worst job in the mess hall, but they usually start you as that and then you move up until you get a better position.”

    They both agree that freedom tastes delicious.

    The first meal Hamilton ate as a free man was Red Lobster’s “Ultimate Feast” — a seafood medley of lobster, crab legs and shrimp scampi.

    Shakur’s was a humble turkey sandwich from a deli near the jail.

    “I didn’t get nothing fancy,” he says. “I still had prison clothes on. I went into a restaurant to change.”

    Now they’re feasting on menu delights at Brownstone such as the teriyaki ginger chili chicken wings ($10), fried calamari ($12) and pan-seared salmon ($20).

    “I feel like Jay Z when he brought Barclays to Brooklyn,” says Shakur.

    While he may feel like a big shot, Shakur says he and Hamilton are getting their hands dirty too.

    “Even as owners we have washed dishes, we carried plates out here, we swept and mopped. We’ve done everything,” he says.

    Hamilton chimes in: “When the party is over, we’re the cleaning crew.”

    There’s a DJ on weekends and a Happy Hour menu with drinks under $5. They hire security guards on weekends to ensure safety.

    “It’s a work in progress,” says Hamilton. “You gotta work hard. Nobody’s given us anything. Every struggle you go through is a lesson learned.”
     
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  2. Ockydub

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    Props to them but imma need to know how many chicken wings I get for $10
     
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  3. King Zorro

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    They had me at drinks for under $5!
     
  4. itsumoconfused

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    I suppose I'll try it soon and give ya'll a review?
     
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  5. RolandG

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  6. OhSheit

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    Give me a message, I'd come.

    Gotta support black businesses, whenever there is one. :yeshrug:
     
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  7. SB3

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    I love the story, but I heard everything is overpriced...ijs
     
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  8. Rico

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    I got vacation time coming up. I got you covered when I hit NYC. Long as it ain't $10 A WING, lol. They're already pushing $20 hamburgers in Chicago (and when this black man orders "well done" here, white folks read that as blackened/charred).

    On another note, I don't mind paying a little more at a black establishment if they come right with taste and service. It's hard enough starting something like this, especially the way black businesses get shut out of capital access. As long as I see them trying and making some progress and listening to customers, I'll gladly pay a "black premium"...Unlike that Jamaican restaurant I went to in San Diego that served me some jerk chicken that tasted as bland as Mitch McConnell's blind grandmother serving up potato salad at a Joel Osteen picnic lol
     
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  9. SB3

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    Just like a negro to order a 20$ burger well done lol
     
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  10. Rico

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    I ain't shamed of my Bammite roots! I teared a little this week when Glen Campbell died and my chili ain't got no beans.

    I'll let you and Joan Crawford have that bloody mess lol. Go 'head, Cristina. A little blonde girl that likes her meat COOKED always got a seat at my black Mississippi family reunion...
     
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  11. SB3

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    Medium. All day.
     
  12. African King

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    Whenever I go to NY, I would love to support this black-owned business!
     
  13. Rico

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    I need to get a list/mapping from you and @SB3 im gonna roll through there in Sept or Oct. hopefully, Harlem and Brooklyn ain't so gentrified that when I look for some West Indian or African cuisine it won't be Bo Derek in the restaurant serving vegan tofu rib tips...
     
  14. TheGrotesqueLestat

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    The Real Soul Food that must be then :)
    .............................................................................

    [​IMG]
     
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  15. SB3

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    Trust me, if u want west Indian food, all u have to do is walk within a 2 ft radius of my apt
     
  16. African King

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    lol i am not from NY and I have never been so @SB3 got you
     
  17. Rico

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    I misunderstood your sentence, read it as you being a regular visitor. Regardless, never been to Houston so I know where to get that menu listing :)
     
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  18. Rico

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