Ben's Chili Bowl in Washington, D.C., has been a Black landmark since its opening in 1958, and almost as famous as its food is the mural outside depicting leaders in the Black community — including Barack and Michelle Obama, Muhammad Ali and Prince. One former Black hero who is now missing from the mural, where his image had been for years, is fallen comedian Bill Cosby.
Following Cosby's sexual assault trial, Cosby's likeness has been removed from the mural outside the restaurant. While his image is still visible in two places inside, it's clear where Ben's Chili Bowl stands with regards to the allegations against Cosby.
This is a huge move considering Cosby helped make Ben's famous. He had been a regular there since the 1950s and befriended its owners, Ben Ali and Virginia Ali. In fact, a historical information sign outside the restaurant reads, "Thanks in part to the patronage of entertainer Bill Cosby, Ben’s has become a national landmark.”
Ben's had an unveiling ceremony last Wednesday to reveal the mural's newest additions, including Dave Chappelle and others, but many also noticed that Cosby's image was no longer present.
Ali explained that the restaurant ran an online poll to ask the community who should be included in the mural. After Cosby was not mentioned in the poll, Ali used it as a sign to remove his likeness. "That’s not the man I knew. It’s one of those ‘he said, she said' things," Virginia Ali told The Guardian. "There’s no point getting into it because I wasn’t there. I feel badly for everyone involved," she said.
Just as there has been tension regarding Cosby's trial within the Black community, there are some who disagree with his exclusion for the mural. One patron, Brandi Summer, perhaps said it best. "Sometimes the burden of Black figures is to represent most or all Black people and we forget all individuals have their own stories," she said. "We invented Bill Cosby as a figure; we don’t know the man. The Cosby Show’s legacy can live on but him as a figure is what’s transformed.”
Catch up on the latest news regarding Cosby's trial with The Wendy Williams Show, above.
(Photo: Leigh Vogel/FilmMagic)