They’re back and they’re black…
Much has been said of how bustling Westport was on St. Patrick’s Day. To which I can add, ditto for Waldo. The Well, Quinton’s and Kennedy’s were on fire.
Which brings us to KC’s other prominent people magnet, the Plaza.
After spending several hours there Saturday afternoon and evening, I can report that comparably, outside of O’Dowd’s and maybe the sports bars the Plaza was a St. Patrick’s Day bust.
Don’t get me wrong.
There were plenty of locals out and about, shopping, dining, enjoying the weather and beautiful day. They just weren’t – for the most part – adorned in tacky green getups and stumbling around drunk.
Which by Plaza standards is a good thing.
However the day also marked the notable return of a crowd the Plaza’s been loath to welcome.
That being the huddled masses of African-American youth the white bread entertainment and shopping district has so disdained the past 10 years. The Plaza has made it abundantly clear that it’s a demographic it would just as soon do without.
In 2002, for example, I reported in the Star, the Plaza installed four large floodlights atop Seville glaring down on the hundreds of black youths that had begun to hang on the sidewalks outside Cinemark on Saturday nights. It was a painfully obvious attempt to discourage the kid’s presence.
Which was further hammered home by the positioning of a formidable force of security and police.
More recently there was the Plaza youth wilding two years back followed by last summer’s shooting spree that caused new KC mayor Sly James to eat dirt to dodge whizzing bullets.
A kiddie curfew was quickly implemented, calm restored and the summer drew to a close.
Until Saturday when the kids were back and not surprisingly Plaza Security was all over them.
However the kiddie groupings I observed were largely well behaved. Plaza Security hovered close by, moving in frequently to break up groups and order them to move along.
As in year’s past the main gathering point Saturday was the Seville block that houses Cinemark, Urban Outfitters and Brio. Continuously being routed, the kids fanned out aimlessly to nearby blocks and to the north and east towards H&M and Barnes & Noble.
It was basically a cat and mouse game.
The $64 million question being, was this a preview of things to come this summer?
Here’s the deal…
Like their white suburban brethren, urban kids enjoy hanging in upscale shopping and entertainment areas where the vibe is upbeat and the streets and sidewalks are safe. They want to see and be seen just like the flocks of teens that roam Oak Park Mall and Zona Rosa.
Yet even though the majority of the urban teen interlopers were nicely dressed and largely well-behaved, Plaza Security did its best to make it clear to the kids they were unwelcome.
Since the security dudes couldn’t bust the kids for rowdiness or curfew violations, they hassled them instead for hanging to long in one place. Or for leaning – heaven forbid – against a rail or building.
Funny, nobody rousted any of the white dudes I saw leaning against buildings.
Frankly, it was kind of sad to watch.
I spoke with a couple kids right after a Plaza Security dude rousted them and they simply shrugged and let it go. They knew how the game was played.
The difference between the Plaza kids and kids in the burbs?
Where my 15 year-old daughters and their friends seldom leave home without ten or twenty bucks – sometimes more – these kids don’t appear to be long on green. So odds are they’re far less likely to duck into Urban and drop $30 or $50. Or Noodles & Company even.
So not only do the kids present an awkward and uncomfortable presence for white bread Plaza habitues, there’s little to be harvested moneywise by merchants. Merchants who fear the kids presence may scare off paying customers or erupt in violence as they have on the rare but sensationally reported occasions.
And that’s the way this year’s St. Patrick’s went down on the Plaza as I saw it.