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TipsyCake Bakery Draws Protest For Mocking Humboldt Park

By Samantha Abernethy in Food on Feb 23, 2012 10:00PM

This poster has passed around the internet to promote picketing at TipsyCake's bakery.
Protesters have gathered at TipsyCake bakery after the owner made some controversial remarks about the Humboldt Park neighborhood.

During an interview with City Soles, bakery owner Naomi Levine talked about opening a storefront in Bucktown. The Humboldt Park bakery is still open, but she said the Bucktown location would attract more people. She said, “I bought a bakery in Humboldt Park in 2006 and there were just too many gunshots in the cakes.” Levine also went on to mention some addictive "crack cakes," that she lovingly calls "Humboldt Crack."

Gozamos blogger Xavier Luis Burgos wrote a response to Levine's comments that explains what her comments really mean for the residents of a neighborhood under threat of gentrification. Burgos writes:

"In essence, she perpetuated the very stigmas that saturate the print and visual media, reproducing racist notions. In other words, she paints Humboldt Park as a savage no-man’s land, following in a long tradition of “urban pioneers” who bravely seek to tame the indomitable through imperial mechanisms of power and privilege.


"Like many “yuppies,” she eventually became upset that her investment in the community’s decimation and sterile “revitalization” is developing too slow. The question arises: why open a business here? Because, like the settlers who descended from the Mayflower and saw a vast wilderness as an economic potential for them - and them alone - and not millions of indigenous civilization, the native residents of Humboldt Park are faceless and meaningless. Oftentimes we forget or stay silent to the fact that gentrification is a process guided not by the invisible hand of capitalist economics but by actors and protagonists with agency and intentionality, justifying their actions with racist and classist worldviews."

Vocalo's Morning AMp interviewed Humboldt Park community organizer Janeida Rivera on her experience with TipsyCake, as well as recent HP transplant Dr. Coya Paz, who strugged with her own role in gentrification.

Levine issued an apology on the TipsyCake Facebook page. She defended herself against accusations that her "bullets in cake" comment was racist, and agreed with Burgos that her comments were rooted in a lack of relationship with her community and that she "failed to take into consideration any historical, social, economic or political implications of my words."

"As an Australian immigrant that settled in Humboldt Park in 2006, I now realize that I spent all my time focusing solely on growing my business and my family, and, like many in society, I never took any time to develop a real understanding of the very community and the history of the people that I have had the fortune of living among for the past 6 years. In other words, I in fact lived 'in a vacuum.'"

Levine also defends her use of the word crack as slang, which, yeah, is something people do.

My only thought over all of these years, and during my comments in the interview, was that people could use that slang as a compliment to say that my food was addicting and that it was okay for me to do so as well. With respect to inserting the word “Humboldt” in front, I would have to apologize and accept 100% blame. What I thought was a “cool” play on words never crossed my mind as having implications to the presence of illegal drugs in Humboldt Park.

Watch the video below and tell us what you think.