'No watermelon': Museum apologizes for racist behavior toward black students

Friday, May 24, 2019
'No watermelon': Museum apologizes for racist behavior toward black students
The Appeal to the Great Spirit 1909 equestrian statue by Cyrus Dallin sits outside the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.

The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston is apologizing after a teacher posted publicly that her middle school students were the subjects of racist behavior during a visit last week.

Marvelyne Lamy, a seventh-grade teacher from Davis Leadership Academy in Dorchester, Massachusetts, just outside Boston, posted on her Facebook page on Monday that the school group was "racially profiled" during a trip to the museum on May 14. The class was made up entirely of black and brown students, she wrote.

"At the very beginning of the tour, one of the staff gave an overview on what to expect and told the kids no food, no drink, and no watermelon," Lamy wrote, saying chaperones were not aware of the watermelon comment until after the visit. "Throughout our walk through, they followed us. Many of our students grew agitated. At the end, we went through the gender bending exhibit where the security guard followed our every movement."

"It got so bad that I started gathering our students so we could leave," she added.

Lamy said she spoke to staff as they were leaving, but "they just looked on with pity."

She said all they were offered were tickets to return to the museum and did not receive an apology.

The Museum of Fine Arts did give that apology two days after Lamy's post, when it addressed the incident in a letter to the school, posted on its website, on Wednesday.

"Last week, a number of students on an organized visit encountered a range of challenging and unacceptable experiences that made them feel unwelcome," the museum 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."

The museum said it immediately reached out to the Davis Leadership Academy's Christopher Coblyn, the school's interim executive director, and directly apologized for the racist behavior.

In the letter, signed by seven executives with the Museum of Fine Arts, they pledged to conduct an investigation into the incident and said that Makeeba McCreary, the museum's chief of Learning and Community Engagement, has been in contact with Coblyn.

"We want to apologize specifically to the students, faculty, and parents of the Davis Leadership Academy," the museum's letter concluded. "We deeply regret any interactions that led to this outcome and are committed to being a place where all people trust that they will feel safe and treated with respect. We look forward to ongoing conversation and commit to using this situation as an opportunity to learn and create a culture of unwavering inclusion."

ABC News' Matt Zarrell contributed to this report.

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