“We believe that building community around shared beliefs and dialogue over food and drinks creates connections that are meaningful and lasting. We are a community where racial and cultural connections are consciously uplifted… a place to take a deliberate pause and feed your mind, body, and soul… a space for art, culture, and politics to intentionally collide… we believe that by creating such a space we can inspire social change and begin to transform our community and the world.”
– Busboys and Poets
Busboys and Poets is a group of community gathering places located within the DMV (Washington DC, Maryland, Virginia) area that were founded by artist and activist, Andy Shallal in 2005. Innovative in its merging of restaurant and bookstore in one space, it creates an enthralling environment for people to thrive; a place where arts, politics, and culture compile while preserving the community with great intention.
The name is an ode to Langston Hughes, who, while working as a busboy at Washington DC’s Wardman Park Hotel in 1925, jotted down a few poems on napkins one evening and slipped them under the plate of poet and critic, Vachel Lindsay. The next day, Hughes’ poetry was published in the newspaper, thus being forever dubbed the “busboy poet.”
Shallal sought to bring this bold creativity to his gathering spaces, designing a place where people could come together while being conscious of their differences. A place where there was no segregation. Where different races could eat and spend time together. Where everyone could feel casual, comfortable, and welcomed.
With seven distinctive locations including 14th and V (DC), Shirlington (VA), 450K (DC), Hyattesville (MD), Brookland (DC), Takoma (DC) and Anacostia (DC), Busboys and Poets has become a set of cultural hubs for artists, activists, writers, thinkers, and dreamers.
A restaurant, bookstore, and event space in one, Busboys and Poets showcases the work of DMV creators, whether it’s a piece of art hanging in the restaurant or a novel written by a local author. They also host an In House Series geared towards meeting each community’s individual interests. One of their most popular set of events are their Open Mic nights, hosted in different locations on differing nights of the week to showcase each locale’s unique personality and talent.
Busboys and Poets serves as a model of how to honor and celebrate history while being current in the affairs and cares of the present day. It is an inclusive, integrated, and communal space which welcomes everyone with a running mission to create an undivided atmosphere.
Hayley Harris enjoys writing from experience and immersion — and anything which gives her a feeling. She is a freelance writer located on the east coast.