Afro-centric Atlanta school had second graders perform in blackface masks and parents are outraged

A teacher has taken responsibility for the blackface masks.

Parents of an Afrocentric Atlanta school are outraged after their second-grade students performed a famous Paul Laurence Dunbar poem while holding offensive blackface masks.

Parents of students at the Kindezi School in the historic Old Fourth Ward in Atlanta are fuming because their kids were given the hurtful caricatures while reciting the “We Wear the Mask” poem at the school’s Black History Month program. 

READ MORE: Georgia parents furious that teacher gave their 7-year-old a racist role in school play

In a video circulating on Facebook, parents demand answers about how the tone-deaf performance got past school administrators and eluded the approval of the school’s black principal.

One parent Eddie Lofton, tells TheGrio exclusively that he plans to address his concerns directly with the principal.

“This was obviously just over the line,” said Lofton whose daughter is a first grader at the school. “I really have a hard time understanding the black teachers. The principal’s black, the staff…everybody there is black which tells me someone black saw this and ok’d this. That really bothers me,” Lofton said.

While Lofton applauds the school’s rigorous curriculum and said they are usually on point when it comes to being culturally sensitive, he said this video proves that something went wrong because the blackface poem missed the mark of whatever message it was trying to send.

Lofton said he viewed the video after his wife attended the and said he had an honest conversation with his kid about the mask’s negative connotations.

“I talked to her and asked her did she see the mask and she said yes,” he said. “I don’t sugarcoat things. I told her the masks were wrong and offensive.” He explained to his daughter, “some people like your grandmom… if she saw that it would probably hurt her feelings a lot because she remembers the time when that was not OK. I’m just thankful to God that I didn’t see her in a mask,” he says.

The History

Blackface is considered an offensive, racist archetype of the past when freed slaves were forced to perform with blackface as buffoons for the comedic pleasure of white people. Later whites took to the stage and painted their faces black with red lips to mock African Americans while reinforcing racist stereotypes.

Statements

After the outrage over the performance spread on social media, the school quickly addressed the issue and plans on holding a forum with parents Friday night.

The school issued this statement on social media saying:

“Last night Kindezi Old Fourth Ward hosted a Black History performance for our school community. On the whole, we are very proud of the creativity and talent shown by our students. However, as you likely know, among the acts was a performance by a group of second graders reciting the Paul Laurence Dunbar poem “We Wear the Mask.” During this performance, the students held black-face masks in front of their faces. This was a poor and inappropriate decision and we sincerely apologize and accept responsibility for the hurt, anger, frustration, and disappointment that this has caused in the Kindezi community and the community at large.

We are deeply committed to ensuring that this never happens again. We are taking the following actions:

· Providing teacher education on cultural competency and ensuring our staff has a thorough understanding of our shared history regarding race and racism in America, and how to engage in productive conversations with our students and the community.

· Holding conversations with students to provide the historical context of the imagery and poem used, as well as providing them with an opportunity to express their feelings and thoughts.

· Holding a forum with Kindezi O4W families to process the harm that has been done and next steps to repair it. The forum for parents and guardians will be held at 4:30 pm today in the auditorium at Kindezi O4W.

We want you to know that our intent behind choosing the poem was to celebrate the resilience and persistence of the African-American community. We hope you will be able to join us as we start the healing and reconciliation process together.”

It’s yet to be seen how parents will react at the forum, but for now people have taken to Kindezi’s social media account to pellet them with criticism.

“How was this approved..how was this not stopped..wtf is going on here and if they are ignorant to the history so be it but I had to be AT LEAST ONE PERSON ON THE SCHOOL BOARD that said,” this is not a good look”.. or “Them niggas gone be mad at this one lol”…. Wow..they just keep on poking us with that petty stick,and wonder why we WONT FORGET AND FORGIVE..” said Rapheal Robinson.

“Whatever school this is needs to be ashamed and to have “BLACK” kids participate in this is straight foolery… This is shaming blacks right in our face smmfh,” said Terrence Jones

“This was not thought out properly and the faced depicted a negative connotation of Black Culture.. Present with dignity and respect not with a Salvvely (sic) Mentally,” said Shirley Crenshaw.

One teacher stepped up to take responsibility for the masks. 

“Good evening, The idea to use the mask was my idea. I understand the pain behind the concept of black face and in no way was it my intent to be offensive but to shed light on a part of our history that was not pretty,” said teacher Rachel Clay. ” A time when black people were subject to ridicule and stereotypes and how despite it all we had to persevere and continue with a smile on our faces despite how we may have been feeling. My sincerest apologies to all that have been offended. If you have any further comments or concerns please feel free to email me.”

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You be the judge. Take a look at the video below.

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