*editor’s note: This article’s content was edited on May 3, 2015.
Capital City faces student protest, discrimination accusations
Destiny Parker watched her two white friends walk into Capital for free. She and another friend, both black, were stopped and asked to pay.
“As we all approached the bouncer to enter,” Parker said in a Facebook post on April 10 “He allowed my two white friends in for free (along with five other white women) without hesitation. Of course I assumed we all were going to get in for free. Nope. My lovely friend and I were stopped by this fellow and asked to pay to get in.”
Parker’s story was spread throughout social media by friends and posted on popular Facebook groups like “Bobcat Exchange.” The post inspired a number of other students to share their own thoughts and experiences with Milledgeville’s downtown bars.
The stories encouraged some students to take action. Students stood outside Capital Saturday night holding signs reading “Boycott Capital” and “Jim Crow is Over”. A Facebook group named “Boycott Capital” was created by Georgia College philosophy and liberal studies lecturer Dr. Sabrina Hom, who organized the protest. The group plans to protest again.
While some current students may be hearing about discriminatory practices by the bars for the first time, alumni and faculty have been aware of the situation for a while.
“For somebody who’s lived here as long as I have and who has been associated with the downtown scene as long as I have, I’ve seen this all before,” said Kevin Hall, 15-year Milledgeville resident and GC alumnus.
“The issues at Capital and Chops are things that come up over and over in my classes,” said Hom. “What I keep hearing is that we all know that it happens, what can you do about it?”
Students and faculty have identified multiple bars as perpetrators of discriminatory practices but most of the discussion has centered on two bars — Chops and Capital City.
Capital City, managed by Rocky Duncan Jr., and Chops Milledgeville, with which Duncan is heavily affiliated, released matching statements to The Colonnade through Facebook.
“We love all of our customers of all nationalities [sic],“ read the statements. “We look forward to continuing to provide a fun, safe, atmosphere for our patrons to enjoy. Thank you.”
Duncan and multiple workers from each bar were asked for further comments but repeatedly declined.
However, those who know the workers were willing to speak and claim management discourages black patrons from entering the bar.
“Bouncers and bartenders said that the owner would tell them, ‘we do not want black people to enter our bars,’” said 2014 GC grad Maria Esposito who worked closely with downtown bars through a resident student organization. “I don’t know the reasoning behind it, but I’ve heard bouncers and bartenders from multiple bars definitely outright say that before.”
An anonymous source referenced a bouncer at Capital who mentioned a similar command.
“He works as a bouncer at Capital and he said that [the management] tell him to not let it get ‘too dark’ in Capital,” the source said.
Dr. Stephanie McClure, an associate professor of sociology at Georgia College confirmed these allegations.
When McClure first started teaching at Georgia College, two students, one a male bouncer at Capital, the other a female bartender, came to McClure after a discussion of Milledgeville bars in class.
“They both confirmed,” McClure said, “that they were given instruction by management that there was a general protocol for limiting the percentage of African American patrons in the bar at any particular time…The story goes that the code is, ‘It’s getting dark in here.’“
“[The discrimination] is very subtle, but for those who know it’s happening it’s very obvious. If you’re waiting in line and you’re paying attention the story changes so much that it’s hard to believe it’s with good intentions,” Esposito said.
Often, the discrimination is carried out against both GC and non-GC students by stating that the patrons are not following an obscurely defined dress code policy.
“They said, ‘no. You can’t come in. You didn’t match dress code,’” Monica Prince said.
Prince is a grad student and English 1101 teacher at Georgia College and is remembering the first time she tried to get into Capital more than two years ago.
“I’m in jeans and a tank top,” Prince said. “I kept watching white versions of me get into this club. They look just like me, but I don’t get in? And [the bouncers] said, ‘fine, but you still can’t get in. You don’t have a GC ID.’ I said, ‘well, here’s my GC ID.’ [The bouncers] said ‘well, no you didn’t match dress code.’ They just went backwards on both those things.”
“It made me feel unworthy,” Prince added. “Like I didn’t matter at a school I just moved to. I had just moved to this town. I’d been here for a week and a half.”
“I’ve seen it so many times,” Esposito said. “A black guy will be in front of me, he obviously goes to school here, has a million friends around him and he can’t get in regardless if he has an ID or not. The bouncer will pick out something like, ‘oh, he’s wearing a hat,’ or he’ll just make up an excuse.”
The stories aren’t dissimilar. A black student with a GC ID is turned away based on an unclear and unposted dress code
On April 15, The Colonnade was able to reach Duncan for a brief comment just outside of Capital City before he quickly retreated inside.
“We have nothing else to say,” Duncan said last Wednesday. “I met with the SGA president yesterday and the equity director for the school and we got everything cleared up.”
“Well,” SGA President Juawn Jackson said the next day, “for starters, we didn’t clear everything up.”
Jackson and Director of Institutional Equity and Diversity at Georgia College Dr. Veronica Womack went directly to Duncan for a meeting at Capital City after noticing the allegations of discrimination on social media.
“We had a very productive meeting with [Duncan] to address some of the allegations that have been taking place at [Capital],” Jackson said. “And we’re moving forward with trying to insure that an event like this doesn’t happen again. One of the things he did agree to was to publicize the dress code policy. He also recognized the need for additional training for his staff.”
The meeting pointed towards some progressive changes for the bar; however, some issues remain unresolved.
“There were a few things we disagreed on. I’m not ready as of yet to share that until they’ve been finalized.” said Jackson. “The meeting, overall, was productive.”
The biggest focus for Jackson was the lack of a public dress code.
“Almost every nightclub or restaurant has a particular dress code,” Jackson explained. “There’s nothing wrong with having a dress code. What’s currently not taking place is the enforcement of that dress code policy or public knowledge of what the dress code policy is.”
Many times, it’s Georgia College students using the “dress code” to turn away other Georgia College students.
During the meeting with Womack and Jackson, Duncan stated the 90 percent of his employees were Georgia College students.
“If 90 percent of the folks who are working in his establishment are from Georgia College,” Dr. Womack said, “a school that says we pride ourselves on Reason, Respect and Responsibility, I would hope that those students who work for the establishment would be mindful of who we say we are as an institution. And seek to reflect that wherever they work.”