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Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Business owner receives racist note, harassment

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Indianapolis’ Lvl Up Gaming Lounge, located in the Irvington neighborhood, is months away from its grand opening, but business owners Sami Ali and Tone Jones have already received a racist letter and other forms of harassment. 


Ali, who is Puerto Rican and Arabic, and Jones, who is Black, received a note that read “Close shop! We don’t support black business owners!” after hosting a gaming event at the venue. 

Jones is currently unavailable for comment.  

Ali was told by an Irvington resident that if hip-hop music was heard coming from the building “someone would be punched in the face.”

Ali posted the letter on an online forum for members of the Irvington community and the letter caught the attention of various media outlets. Ali says the comments posted on news stories about the incident were even more disturbing than the letter itself, many accusing him of writing the note himself for publicity. He says his wife has expressed concern regarding the safely of their children. 

“It’s crazy,” Ali said. “One person will write ‘this is fake,’ and another will write ‘I’m going to rape your children, you n***** lover.’”

Ali says threats will not deter his plans. He grew up in Irvington, now lives nearby and feels his business is needed because it will give teens and young adults a safe place to socialize. 

“I am a huge nerd at heart,” Ali said. “Growing up, I wished for a place where we could just come and sit down and play games. We are here to make a place for young adults and kids to relax and have fun, because there are not very many places like that in Irvington (that stay open) until 2 a.m.”

Adrienne Kennedy, a Black woman who lives in Irvington with her wife, Alyssa Kennedy, says the pair both felt disheartened to hear that this had happened in their community. 

“It sucks.” Kennedy said. “Because we really like living in Irvington, but it feels like two steps forward, three steps back. I want people to stand up for him, for his business or others (like it). If you see something like that start correcting people, don’t let it slide anymore.”

Lvl UP Gaming Lounge is not the only location to recently receive a racist message. Last week, “No n****** allowed” was spray painted on a sign on the Monon Trail. 

In response to recent messages of hate, Ali said “If you don’t like Black people, white people, Hispanic people that’s your thing, keep that in. But not when people take it to the point that they are violent or threatening. Thank God nobody busted a window out.”

Indiana is one of only five states in the country without a hate crime law. 

 Keshia McEntire is a freelance reporter residing in Indianapolis. Find her online at keshiamcentire.wordpress.com.

Lvl Up Gaming Lounge owners received a note expressing displeasure about the new business opening in Irvington. (Photo/WXIN /Video Screenshot) 

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