Paint the Wall Black: The Story of Nini’s Deli

I just watched a poignant documentary on faith and courage set against the backdrop of last summer’s BLM protests for social justice. It made me wonder how many people would have done what Nini’s Deli had done. Could you stand by your principals even if it meant losing everything?

I don’t know how brave I would be in that situation. Do you? Ironically, attitudes have changed since last summer, yet the hero of the documentary – Juan Riesco has maintained his stance. Despite all that Juan suffered, I think in some ways he’s better off because of it.

And now, on with the show…

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Juan Riesco grew Nini’s Deli from its humble origins to #1 in Chicago on Yelp before the Black Lives Matter movement cancelled it in early June 2020. His parents, immigrants from Cuba and Mexico, started the small business. Juan took the reigns during a transitional period in his life, in which he converted to Christianity, after living as a homosexual in San Francisco.

After the death of George Floyd, the Black Lives Matter movement promoted posting a black square on social media to show solidarity with the cause. When Juan failed to take this step, hundreds of people went online to accuse him of racism. Juan gently responded to each individual by explaining that he was a Christian and could not endorse the anti-Christian beliefs of the Black Lives Matter organization, but that he did believe black people, as well as all people, mattered to God. The next day hundreds of protesters showed up to protest Nini’s Deli. Juan preached the gospel to them. The next day thousands of people showed up. Juan received thousands of death threats and had to flee the city in the middle of the night to escape. Juan lost his corporate contracts and Nini’s Deli closed.

Even as he lost his business and experienced betrayal by friends, Juan’s faith in Christ and resolve grew. Juan considers the story of Nini’s to be a victory story as many have come to Christ and been inspired by his courage.

Paint the Wall Black: The Story of Nini’s Deli

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One Year Later…

A lot has transpired since the events showcased in the “Paint the Wall Black” documentary. Much of it brought to my attention by USA Today. Let me share a few quotes from a recent article.

ONE: The police are now trusted more than Black Lives Matter.

Americans’ trust in the Black Lives Matter movement has fallen and their faith in local law enforcement has risen since protests demanding social justice swept the nation last year, according to an exclusive USA TODAY/Ipsos Poll.

Among Black respondents, trust in Black Lives Matter has fallen by 12 points and trust in local police has risen by 14 points. Among white respondents, trust in Black Lives Matter has fallen by 8 points and trust in local police has risen by 12 points.

TWO: People are not so sure George Floyd was murdered.

Last June, 60% in a USA TODAY/Ipsos Poll described Floyd’s death as murder; that percentage has now dropped by double digits to 36%. Uncertainty has grown about how to characterize the incident, caught on video, when Chauvin held his knee on Floyd’s neck and ignored his protests that he couldn’t breathe. Last year, 4% said they didn’t know how to describe it; that number has climbed to 17%.

THREE: Despite uncertainty, both blacks and whites want Chauvin convicted.

That said, Americans who have heard at least something about Chauvin’s trial say 4 to 1, or 60%-15%, that they hope Chauvin is convicted. That included 54% of white Americans and 76% of Black Americans.

It will be interesting (Is that the right word?) to see how the Derek Chauvin trial is resolved. If the punishment is too lenient, opportunists will leverage the situation for political points, news ratings, riots and looting (aka “peaceful protests”). If Chauvin is charged too harshly, it will be all the more difficult to recruit more police officers in the future and those already on the force will hesitate to their job. That being said, even as the jurors are being selected, I foresee a guilty plea. What will likely happen (pardon my cynicism) is that jurors will arrive with guilty pleas on their mind and any jurors with an open mind will fear personal attacks should they impede a guilty verdict. No matter who wins in the end, there will be a lot of losses for us all.

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