I met Burnell Cotlon at his grocery store in the New Orleans Lower Ninth Ward shortly after he opened it in 2014. He used his lifesavings to renovate a building that was badly damaged by Katrina, creating the only grocery store in the area.
Opening the grocery wasn’t a businesses venture he hoped would make him rich; rather it was one to uplift his community.
Burnell is the kind of person who can win you over just with his broad smile. Add to that his personal story of following his dream and you end up with an uplifting and inspirational tale of someone giving back to his community. I offered to help get him some attention from the press, but I had a hunch he wouldn’t need it, which proved to be the case. Countless celebrities and politicians have dropped by Burnell’s Market including President Obama, Wesley Snipes, T.I and Mark Zuckerberg., and
many news media companies have done features on Burnell and his market.
In 2015, I featured him in a video series i created with Phin Percy for the Weather Channel about New Orleans ten years after Katrina. Ellen DeGeneres saw that video and ended up donating a bunch of washers and dryers to him for the laundromat he was adding on to his grocery store.
I got a great feeling when Burnell told me the video I worked on for the Weather Channel resulted in something tangible happening for him.
During a recent visit i made Burnell’s shop I found him uncharacteristically upset. He explained the the DailyMail, a U.K. publication, did an article on his shop that made him look bad. Its report reeks of racism, making Burnell out to be a needy black man looking for handouts.
He asked if there was anything i could do to get the DailyMail to fix it. I suggested he contact the writer, which he assured me he did, but as of yet the writer has changed nothing.
I read the article and it doesn’t capture the voice of the man i know. The headline alone sets a tone that rung false to me right away:
“EXCLUSIVE: Shopkeeper who used his life savings to build the only grocery store in NOLA’s Lower Ninth Ward after Katrina tells how billionaire Mark Zuckerberg traveled to see his shop – but didn’t donate a dime.”
It leads one to think Burnell asked for something from Zuckerberg after Zuckerberg’s visit to his grocery and that he was disappointed when Zuckerberg didnt give him anything. But Burnell didn’t ask for anything!
Writer Chris White took Burnell’s words out of context and created a sensationalized hit piece on Mark Zuckerberg. Burnell asked the writer to take the article down.
He doesn’t know if the DailyMail has a beef with Zuckerberg. or if this negative article is just click bait, but whatever the case ,Burnell doesn’t have a beef with Zuckerberg. He cherishes the time he spent with him and his wife, whom he describes as lovely people.