By Sean Yoes
AFRO Baltimore Editor
syoes@afro.com

Kevin Brown is one of my favorite people in this city.

He’s a solid guy, brilliant cat, funny as hell. West Baltimore through and through. He loves his city and he loves his people.

Brown happens to be gay. And unfortunately, his sexuality is pertinent to this story.

This week Brown and his partner Bill Maughlin, who are co-owners of Nancy by SNAC, a restaurant on North Ave. in the Station North Arts Community, were physically attacked and subsequently terrorized by individuals experiencing homelessness. Apparently, Brown and Maughlin had an ongoing dispute with people who had erected an encampment on the steps of a building on the corner of North and Maryland Aves., just a few feet away from the front door of their restaurant.

Sean Yoes

According to Brown, they had gone through several avenues in an attempt to resolve the issue, but on May 18 the conflict erupted into violence. Brown was allegedly punched in the face and Maughlin’s leg was cut during the scuffle.The front of their restaurant  was defaced. According to them, the initial response of the Baltimore Police Department was lackadaisical (at best).

But, perhaps most disturbing is according to Brown and Maughlin, they were not only physically attacked, they were constantly doused with homophobic slurs and threats. If true, now it seems like we’re looking at a hate crime. 

It’s no secret homophobia  has been a thing in the Black community pretty much ever since there has been a Black community, despite the fact members of the LGBTQ community are our mothers and fathers, brothers and sister, aunts and uncles, our children, our nieces and nephews, our cousins and our friends. And if you take just a cursory look at the hate crime stats perpetrated against the LGBTQ community, specifically against trans women of color the Black community seems to be becoming less tolerant in the age of Trump.

Why is that okay?

The irony that Brown and Maughlin were perhaps the victims of a hate crime does not escape me or anybody who knows the couple and has frequented Nancy by SNAC, because it is much more than a restaurant. And it certainly is antithetical to hate.

The eatery doubles as a salon, not a hair salon mind you (although Brown’s hair sits like a crown upon his head), but rather the more archaic meaning of the word, “a social gathering of imminent people.”

And Nancy, prior to Rona drew perhaps the most eclectic gathering in the city. And that includes some rather imminent people from Baltimore’s various worlds: politics, arts and culture, business, media and fashion among them. And Brown was always front and center stirring the social pot, while Maughlin was typically in the back stirring the cooking pot. They have been a great team in business and in love for decades.

They are very generous and loving leaders in our community; they have given their food, their time, their money and their space in service to countless members of our community. Personally, they welcomed me into their space and facilitated a book signing for my book, Baltimore After Freddie Gray.

Bottom line is, those who attacked Brown and Maughlin attacked hundreds of people who love and support them. We stand with them in the face of violence and ignorance.

They deserve better than they got this week.

Brown’s hero is the immortal James Baldwin, who happens to be a hero of mine.

But, it wasn’t always that way for me. As a young man in my early 20’s, really still more boy than man, I shunned Baldwin when I learned he was gay. But, I rediscovered the transcendent writer and Race Man in the late 80’s through an essay that appeared in Essence magazine called, “On Being White and Other Lies.” His greatness forced me to move past my homophobia and embrace this great man, one of the strongest most talented artists and public intellectuals of the 20th century.

I evolved.

We all can evolve.

Sean Yoes is the AFRO’s Baltimore editor and author of Baltimore After Freddie Gray: Real Stories From One of America’s Great Imperiled Cities.

Sean Yoes

AFRO Baltimore Editor