A Black gym owner in California found a hanging noose and a racial slur carved into the door of his establishment over the weekend.
According to the Fresno Bee, Sam Akoidu, owner of Iron Bird Fitness in Fresno’s Tower District, initially didn’t notice anything when he went to the gym early Saturday morning. A trainer who arrived later in the morning noticed that a toy skeleton had been tied to the door with a noose and the words “Hey nigger,” had been etched into the door. The trainer immediately informed Akoidu via text message of what happened.
“I’ve been through a lot in my life, and I just thought that’s what cowards do,” Akoidu told The Bee. “If that’s how you feel, you should say it directly. But to go out and buy a toy (skeleton) and scratch something in the door when no one’s looking, that’s cowardly.”
Understandably, both patrons and employees were upset upon hearing what had been found on the door. Eric Payne, executive director of the Central Valley Urban Institute and frequenter of the gym, tweeted that when he arrived that morning to work out many of the patrons were visibly upset, with one Black woman particularly triggered by the incident who began crying “for her son.”
For Akiodu, this was particularly upsetting as he and his staff have worked to make Iron Bird Fitness an inclusive and safe space for its patrons.
“There are women who come in there, people of color, all kinds of people who come into our space,” Akoidu told the Bee. “We pride ourselves on being able to reach people who normally wouldn’t go to places like gyms.”
While Akoidu said Fresno police arrived at the scene quickly, there isn’t a description of what the potential assailant looked like. Akoidu was surprised this happened in an area that he considers to be very diverse. “But then again, maybe not because this is the day and age that we live in,” he told the Bee. “People talk behind people’s backs, send messages through ghost accounts, and everything else.”
Unfortunately, he’s right. It’s not like incidents like this are incredibly uncommon. I mean shit, this is the year that saw parents go full tilt Klan over the mention of Black Lives Matter and a woman who wasn’t even Black get called the N-word by a racist white lady.
Do you know how racist you have to be to just call any brown person the N-word? The whites have perpetually been at it and it doesn’t look like they’re stopping any time soon.
While the incident was upsetting, Akoidu is determined to bounce back from this, telling the Bee that he had plans to paint a mural on the front of the gym to send the message to whoever vandalized his business that he’s “not going anywhere.”
“For me, as a Black business owner, I don’t bow down to things like that,” he told the Bee. “If anything, it makes me go harder.”