Racist memorabilia hung at city-contracted towing company

Owner calls it 'black history'

By Bob Norman - Investigative Reporter

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - A sign hung up in an employee bathroom depicts an alligator about to eat a crudely drawn black baby, a "dainty morsel" in Jim Crow-era advertisement for "Little African Licorice Drops."

Another shows an offensive caricature of a black man engaged in an obscene act involving a duck and yelling, "Mammy!"

An ad for "Picaninny Freeze" shows a black baby with a watermelon, and another portrays a black man saying, "Dis sho am good," about Uncle Remus syrup.

They aren't hanging in a KKK meeting hall, but at a longstanding Fort Lauderdale company called Sal's Towing, which boasts contracts in several Broward County cities, including Coral Springs, Wilton Manors, Oakland Park and Lauderdale-by-the-Sea.

A former employee of the company told Local 10 News about the racist ads, and in a visit to the company, Local 10 caught one of the signs on camera.

Owner Sal Bellasai, 72, wouldn't speak, but a general manager, before asking the reporter off the property, noted that they were antiques.

"We don't think racist here," he said.

A black employee named Christopher Smith defended the business, saying it wasn't racist. But he was aware of the signs and acknowledged that they were racist and that they shouldn't hang on the walls of the business.

When Coral Springs Mayor Skip Campbell viewed photos of the signs, he said he was "horrified."

"It's something that I don't think is permissible in today's society, and it's unacceptable," Campbell said.

After the visit, Bellasai spoke with Local 10 on the phone and said he didn't believe the signs were racist at all and said he couldn't understand how anyone could be offended by them. He said they were just historic advertisements and an example of "black history."

However, Bellasai said that, because of concerns raised by Local 10's report, he was going to take down those signs from the business.

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