For decades, Bankhead Seafood stood as a staple in the majority-Black Bankhead community in Atlanta. But in 2018, the restaurant closed after 50 years due to owner Helen Brown Harden deciding it was time to retire.
To keep the restaurant’s legacy alive, rappers Killer Mike and T.I. — both raised on Atlanta’s Westside where Bankhead Seafood existed — decided to join forces with real estate developer Noel Khalil, who also was raised in the community, to reopen the establishment.
On Friday, Feb. 28, 2020, Killer Mike attended a press conference at his alma mater, Frederick Douglass High School, where he paid homage to the restaurant’s original owner, Harden, before making space for her to address the crowd of more than 100 people.
“When you have a business owner and a restaurant with this sort of legacy, someone who ran a restaurant for 50 years, you do not let it slip away,” Killer Mike told the audience. “Mrs. Harden wanted the restaurant to remain in the community, and it’s our duty to help her dream become a reality. The job of my generation and future generations is to pick up where our elders, people like Mrs. Harden, left off.”
In a statement, T.I., also a Douglass alum said: “When I was growing up, Mrs. Harden would prepare huge meals and sell them for $5 each. For people with limited financial means, this meant the difference between eating with dignity and experiencing the degradation that comes with lack. While Mrs. Harden was running a business, it was clear that she cared about the community. She is a model for the type of business owners we want to become and a blueprint for the type of culture we want to have in the restaurant.”
While the group will break ground on the actual restaurant later this year, their food truck for the restaurant will be operational in a few weeks.
“We aren’t out-of-state investors with zero connection or compassion for the surrounding community,” co-owner Khalil said in a statement. “We are neighbors who are not only committed to the restaurant but [also] to the people in it – our peers, friends, relatives and acquaintances.”