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Alabama Suburb Hair Salon Targeted with Threatening Note Over Pride Flag

by Kilian Melloy
Friday Jul 5, 2019
The Pride flag at Salon U in Homewood, Alabama flies fearlessly in the face of intimidation and hate
The Pride flag at Salon U in Homewood, Alabama flies fearlessly in the face of intimidation and hate  (Source:Ryan Taylor / Facebook)

A hair salon in the Birmingham, Alabama suburb of Homewood was targeted for hate by someone who warned the business to take down its Pride flag — "Before it is too late." But the local community answered hate with support and acceptance.

According to local news channel ABC 33/40 the owner of Salon U and 11 of his employees had been away to New York City to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall uprising, the seminal 1969 event in which the patrons of a gay bar fought back against police harassment and intimidation and sparked the modern civil rights movement. When they got back, it was to find harassment and intimidation waiting for them right at home, in the form of a threatening letter — printed on a computer and written in all capital letters, with no punctuation used — that had been left on the salon's back door.

AL.com reported on the full content of the note, which read as follows:

This is not San Francisco or downtown Birmingham

This is Homewood which is a religious and family city

We suggest that you remove that flag

Before it is too late

We are concerned citizens

Good bye

One staff member, Ryan Taylor, took to Facebook to respond with a considerably more articulate open letter, al.com reported.

"Dear Offended," Taylor posted, "If you feel called by your faith to spread the word of God through fear mongering and intimidation, your belief system is flawed, it is fragile, and it is dangerous.

"This flag is a peaceful symbol of freedom for the oppressed," Taylor's post continued. "And yet, because of its mere existence you've threatened ours."

Taylor noted in his post that the Pride flag flies in June and would have been taken down anyway at the end of the month, but pointed out that the flag's "message of love will not be silenced by your hate."

Fellow salon employee Michael Cash, who is the manager, alerted the town's police to the threatening note.

Cash told the media that he was "angry" over the note, but went on to say that the owner of the business, Issam Bajalia, offered him a different way of thinking about it.

Cash recounted that Bajalia told him "we have to understand that these kinds of people, whoever has done, this, I don't want to say is misguided, but obviously may not be as informed as they should be," Cash related, "and we want to extend our love and education in the best way we can because we're not here to judge."

Bajalia also spoke to the media, telling al.com "My thing is what is so offensive about a rainbow or a flag and how does this disrupt your religious journey?"

Bajalia went on to say that he did not feel threatened, but acknowledged that in the current political climate, "you can't be too careful... You don't know."

Speaking with local news channel WBRC, Bajalia recollected that the threatening words left by the so-called "concerned citizens" were "just very reminiscent of the mentalities and the attitudes that riddled this city in the '60's."

But where the author of the note evidently wished to convey hate and instill fear, the actual response from the community was the exact opposite: New reports said that since the story went public, the salon and its employees have been inundated with messages of love and support. One such message came from a local Presbyterian church; ABC 33/40 reporter Lauren Walsh tweeted an image of the letter, which listed its responses as follows:

You are all beloved children of God.

Your business is pretty awesome

Hate should have no place here in Homewood

Everyone needs treats


Bolstered by the outpouring of solidarity, Taylor told WBRC, "When I read the letter I felt like I stood alone and now I feel like whoever wrote that letter stands alone. And the community stands against him."

News sources said that police have taken the note seriously and stepped up patrols of the salon's neighborhood. Reports also say that police are now in possession of surveillance images from a neighboring business that show the individual who left the note.

Watch the ABC 33/40 news clip below.

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.


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