Typically field trips are an opportunity for students to explore the world beyond the schoolyard, but unfortunately, nearly two dozen 7th grade students at Helen Y. Davis Leadership Academy Charter Public School in Dorchester, Mass., had their visit to Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts ruined by racist patrons and staff members.
According to the Boston Globe, a museum staff member reportedly told students “no food, no drink, and no watermelon.”
WBUR details additional incidents:
Marvelyne Lamy, a seventh-grade language arts teacher who chaperoned the trip, alleged that she watched as security guards profiled and followed her class — made up of all students of color — from gallery to gallery.
She said her students noticed the stares right away. She said guards seemed hyper-vigilant with her students, while seemingly lax with other groups of white students. A student who was briefly dancing to music playing inside the MFA’s “Gender Bending Fashion” exhibition later told Lamy she heard someone say “it’s a shame that she is not learning and instead stripping.” And just before they left the MFA as they stood near an entrance, Lamy and most of her group heard a woman walk by and loudly exclaim, “Never mind there’s [expletive] black kids in the way.”
The field trip was supposed to be a reward for the kids being exceptional students and to provide them with a firsthand look at the cultures they had been studying in school, but instead, it only served as yet another cruel reminder of how pervasive racism is.
On Monday, Lamy took to Facebook to vent her frustrations.
“The worse part about all of this is seeing the hurt look on my children’s faces as this was their first time experiencing racism first hand,” she wrote. “It’s sad that although our students are well behaved and our teachers are well educated, that we are still seen as less than and as criminals. I cannot stress to you enough, I WILL NEVER GO BACK TO THE MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS [...] If you are a person of color, please do not support this museum until they improve how they treat people of color at their institution.”
The MFA responded to these allegations with an open letter signed by their Director, Chief of Staff and five other museum officials.
“Last week, a number of students on an organized visit encountered a range of challenging and unacceptable experiences that made them feel unwelcome,” they wrote. “That is not who we are or want to be. Our intention is to set the highest of standards, and we are committed to doing the work that it will take to get there.”
Makeeba McCreary, the MFA’s chief of learning and community engagement, confirmed that an internal investigation is underway and disciplinary action is pending based upon the results of the probe.
“This is really about creating a culture of inclusivity in the museum, and as an institution in the city we want to be a leader in that space,” she said. “If they feel they were treated in a way that was racist or unwelcoming, I don’t need to review video. What I’m interested in is that it doesn’t happen again.”
McCreary also announced that the museum’s policies are under review in order to prevent situations such as these from occurring again.
As the students, parents and staff of Helen Y. Davis continue to seek answers, the school’s principal, Arturo J. Forrest, admitted the situation “finally got to put a face to some of the things we go through in our curriculum.”
“It’s an unfortunate lesson to learn but inevitably it’s something we all go through as people of color,” he said.