Darrow Montgomery

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A former Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner (ANC1B) and political cartoonist for the Washington Blade has launched a GoFundMe page to help offset Florida Avenue Grill‘s legal fees.

Mark Ranslem thought MLK Day was the perfect day to launch the fundraising campaign to support the soul food restaurant where Martin Luther King Jr. dined while planning the March on Washington in 1963.

Ranslem says he was troubled, like many Washingtonians, when he heard Florida Avenue Grill was facing foreclosure. Owner Imar Hutchins provided an update via Facebook yesterday:

We are happy to announce that we were successfully able to fend off the foreclosure sale that was scheduled for the Grill. Unfortunately, even that comes at a cost as we incurred tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees and accelerated our mortgage to a payoff in a year. We settled because the reality is that, even though we are right, we are not in a position to fund skyrocketing legal costs and survive a long court battle with a lender as litigious and deep-pocketed as theirs.

The New York Attorney General’s office is also going after these lenders. Hutchins continues,

These folks are responsible for 25% of all the general or consumer debt cases in New York and hold a whopping 40% of all the default judgments against people in New York County! Part of why the NY AG is going after them is that one of their alleged practices is to get default judgments against tens of thousands of people, many of whom don’t even know they are being sued until they find out their credit is messed up.

Ranslem has been a Florida Avenue Grill customer for years and is friends with Hutchins. “I think he’s one of the most honorable decent people I’ve ever met,” Ranslem says. “I would do anything to help him. He wasn’t asking for help, I just volunteered to do it.”

So far the GoFundMe page has received more than $3,000 of its $30,000 goal ($700 of which came from Ranslem directly). He’s encouraging people to give what they can. “Sort of like the Bernie Sanders thing, it doesn’t matter how much you contribute, just contribute something.”