Harlem Shake is from the Shake Shack mold — nondescript small burgers, counter service, inexpensive.
Differently, Harlem Shake wants to prove a point. The backstory:
In 1910, 9% of the population of Central Harlem was African American. By 1920, 32%, by 1930, 70%. However, a 1929 survey found that whites owned 80% of more than 10,000 businesses. As African Americans moved into Harlem, real-estate values plummeted, and so did capitol investment in the community.
Elsewhere, white families thought the influx of blacks into their communities an economic scourge, believing black neighbors would make re-selling to whites impossible.
So, emigrating blacks were forced to move into the working-class low income Harlem neighborhood, settling into an economically depressed community with few financial resources. It was the only neighborhood that would accept them.
White bankers discriminated further by denying mortgages to entire neighborhoods containing certain races, religions, and ethnic groups – eventually extending to all financial and economic services. Called redlining, banks used maps marked with red zones to color code areas where loans and financial services would be available and where they would not.
Though white-owned, nearly 65% of Harlem Shake’s workers reside in Harlem. Owner Jelena Pasic’s restaurant sits amid gentrifiers like Whole Foods, Burlington Coat Factory, Marshall’s and American Eagle, while supporting many Harlem institutions like Black Ink, Cultured Movement, Harlem Business Alliance, Harlem Children’s Zone, Harlem Eat Up, Harlem Haberdashery, Harlem Run, Mama Foundation for the Arts, Marcus Garvey Park Alliance, The Laundromat Project, Power of You Teens, Trinity Harlem Church.
Mediocre food from a deserving white-owned Harlem business.