The first time I was introduced to the term “new negro” it was in the most pejorative context possible. If I’m not mistaken, somebody got put out of a car. And no, it wasn’t me. But somehow, in Washington, DC, - and I imagine in educated new negro enclaves across America like Atlanta, NYC, and Chicago – the term has taken root as some sort of indication of a new version of what “Blackness” looks like.
Honestly, I’m still not even sure what it means. I’m guessing it means that you have a few degrees, are “eclectic,”and are about the finer things in life (and probably use air quotes, but don’t quote me on that – air or regular). Or at least purport to be. If there’s one thing we can all learn from Ray J, it’s that most of us aren’t half of what we think we are.
Anyway, for somebody like myself who probably qualifies as a new negro but doesn’t quite understand how since I nearly abhor “fine dining” establishments and think cinematic masterpieces like “Thuggin’ It And Lovin’ It I &II” are worth viewing (shoutouts to the homies from Baton Rouge, LA), the one way you can tell if you’re part of the New Negro Cartel is brunch.
Yes, brunch. For some odd reason, new negroes have undertaken brunch as a major and definitive part of the current educated negro aesthetic. Why? No idea. It’s just breakfast during lunch hours. Or as so eloquently stated on an episode of The Simpsons: “it’s not quite breakfast, it’s not quite lunch, but it comes with a slice of cantaloupe at the end.” But every Sunday (and Saturdays too, though not at as commonly it seems), a bunch of people who probably didn’t make it to church can be found all over DC throwing back bottomless mimosas, bellinis, and chicken and waffles with reckless abandon by noon. The same conversations we are having at 10pm at some U Street eatery are being had the next morning after those relationship theories were either proven correct or idiotic after last night’s dinner.
Here’s the funny thing: I don’t know when brunch became so popular amongst the buppie set. Obviously, folks have been doing brunch for eons. It used to be one of those after-church family events, in both the Black and white community as far as I could tell. And it used to run your pockets like a stick-up kid in Brooklyn. But now with reasonably priced alcohol specials and regular brunch menus as opposed to the buffet style, it’s just another stop at the restaurant for a group already averse to cooking.
In some ways it almost makes sense. New negroes, especially in DC, are constantly on the search for the next new social foray. From clubs to lounges to art galleries to parties in odd places to whatever manifests itself in the imagination of the populace. The ever-changing social landscape of the group almost insists that some new way of hanging out is imperative. And brunch fits that mold.
The fact that brunch can be as much a part of the social scene as which lounge is poppin’ is something that even W.E.B. Du Bois couldn’t have seen coming. And believe me, it is. Brunch is the move on weekends. It’s as good a place to meet somebody new as the club on Friday night. Or Target. Or online. Especially for the reading ninja set (my own colloquialism for the New Negro Cartel).
Word to the wise, for any degreed-up individual moving to DC and looking to find out where the people just like you are, just find out where brunch is happening on a Saturday or Sunday and there we’ll be.
At least until whatever’s next comes along.
Panama Jackson, an alias for Washington DC-based writer D.M. Wright, is a co-founder of VerySmartBrothas.com and co-author of Your Degrees Won't Keep You Warm At Night: The Very Smart Brothas Guide To Dating, Mating, and Fighting Crime. He believes the children are our future and likes really long book titles. He is Malcolm X, too.
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