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Walk through the door and see a room full of books ranging from non-fictions to autobiographies, cultural to pop art hanging from the walls and the aroma of shrimp cake and chicken quesadilla in the air. Depending on the day, there may be a poet reciting on the open mic. This is the atmosphere of Busboys and Poets in Hyattsville, Maryland.  

This Busboys and Poets caters to the Gateway Art District of Maryland, which includes Mount Rainer, Brentwood, North Brentwood and Hyattsville. This gathering place has a community of culturally and artistically diverse neighbors the artists within this neighborhood are viewed as community assets. The neighborhood itself is also growing artistically. There are also four locations in Washington, DC and one in Virginia.

One person who can speak on the growth of these communities surrounding Busboys and Poets is Andra Damron, a longtime resident of Hyattsville who serves on the Hyattsville Preservation Association. She also wrote the book, “Hyattsville.”

“Hyattsville, at first glance, may be seen as a typical Washington, DC suburb with growth spurred by the railroad, streetcar and automobile. However, its prominence in Prince George’s County was earned by its many firsts and innovative residents whose optimism and ingenuity make Hyattsville history unique,” Damron wrote on the Busboys & Poets website.   

IMG_0824A visit to Busboys and Poets is stepping into an environment filled with art, culture and politics. On Tuesday nights, the building is filled with musicians spoken word performances ranging from amateurs to professionals. Renowned poets such as Alice Walker, Nikki Giovanni, Rita Dove, Amiri Baraka, Elizabeth Alexander, Denis Brutus and Sonia Sanchez have all performed at the restaurant.

While eating brunch and sipping on a hot cup of coffee, there are books ready to read. The books are from the Politics and Prose independent bookstore inside of the Busboys and Poets locations. Authors also host books signings at Busboys and Poets. Local customers love the environment provided by the restaurant.

“When I go Busboys and Poets there is always a relaxing atmosphere. People are reading, listening to poems and enjoying food. I only get this kind of restaurant experience at Busboys,” Habib Bundu, local Lanham, Maryland resident said.  

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The Busboys and Poets experience isn’t complete without art. Displayed art and visual and performing arts are always featured within the restaurant. There is an entire room dedicated to Howard Zinn who was an activist, educator, historian and playwright. He was known for his work “ A People’s History of the United States.” The Zinn room showcases a mural of Zinn that was painted Busboys and Poets owner, Andy Shallal, who is a graduate of Howard University. The mural was inspired by the Langston Hughes poem “The Negro Speaks of Rivers.”  

The art of Busboys and Poets, which is rotated twice annually at each venue leaves the customers feeling inspired. “I’m not really an artistic person but I love the art work displayed in Busboys. It makes me want to learn how to paint or draw,” Georgina Crocker of Bowie, Maryland said.  

The environment of Busboys and Poets even makes its employee enjoy their job more. “Working at Busboys was always a cool vibe. It’s so relaxing but culturally enriching at the same time. I only worked their two months, but I enjoyed it,” Alexis Brewer, former employee of Busboys and Poets said. 

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