A Boston museum is establishing a diversity fund in the wake of claims that staff and patrons lobbed racist remarks at Black students visiting the building on a school trip.
The Museum of Fine Arts announced earlier this week that it would create a $500,000 fund for diversity. The state of Massachusetts is collaborating on the initiative to devote energy to and engage with local artists and communities of color, The New York Times reports.
Iván Espinoza-Madrigal, who heads Lawyers for Civil Rights in Boston, applauded the fund’s establishment.
“This agreement creates a unique blueprint for community engagement and dialogue about the importance of diversity, inclusion, and cultural competency in all cultural and public institutions so that they better reflect and respect the diverse populations they serve,” according to a statement.
Middle schoolers of Boston’s Helen Y. Davis Leadership Academy, a state charter school, were allegedly subjected to racist remarks more than a year ago while on a field trip. A student chaperone said that security staff had been paying more attention to Black students than white students. In addition, one student stated a museum staff member told them, “no food, no drink, no watermelon allowed.”
Not only had staff been accused of racist rhetoric toward the students, but museum patrons as well. Students were said to have overheard some of the visitors expressing that there were too many Black kids in the museum, while another apparently made a vulgar comment about a Black female student dancing in an interactive exhibit telling her to focus on dancing and not “stripping.”
Following the complaints, the museum conducted diversity training for staff and volunteers. The organization also created a new policy on anti-discrimination and anti-harassment.
Museum of Fine Arts Director Matthew Teitelbaum apologized to the students and Academy for their experience soon after it happened.
“There’s nothing more important to us than making sure everyone feels welcome at the M.F.A.,” Teitelbaum said. “Whether you walk through the doors of the museum every day, every week, once a year, or just once, everyone is welcome at the M.F.A.”
Marvelyne Lamy, the teacher and chaperone on the trip, also applauded the creation of the fund, but is unlikely to take students back to the museum.
“There are other institutions that I can fully support that would welcome me in without any hesitation,” she told The New York Times.