Members of a parent-teacher association used blackface photos to promote a speakeasy-themed fund-raiser at a Brooklyn school.
The announcement has drawn criticism from parents and community members because of its cultural insensitivity. Photos used were from the 1920s and had clear depictions of blackface in them. According to The New York Daily News, the PTA of Public School 118, The Maurice Sendak Community School, has sparked an investigation by the education department.
“These serious reports are being investigated, and we’re working with the school community to create a schoolwide diversity board and ensure these concerns are swiftly addressed,” education department spokesman Douglas Cohen said.
A letter sent by a concerned parent brought the education department's attention to an "all-white PTA executive board." The student population consists largely of white students accounting for about 60 percent of its 305 students.
On Jan. 21, the Prohibition and “speakeasy” cabaret- theme announcement was deleted fromFacebook. The subsequent backlash and unwanted attention prompted an apology by the PTA’s co-president, Nadine Baldasare, who took responsibility for the post.
“There are no acceptable excuses for how this happened (it was late, I was tired, I was rushing, etc.) because no excuse can change what I know to be true. My privilege as a white person requires that I be conscientious, engaged and informed when representing our community and promoting events,” Baldasare wrote in a letter.
She added that she “added to a hostile media landscape that continues to deepen wounds carved by persistent racism in our society. I am deeply sorry.”
In an interview with local news outlet The News at Kos Kaffe in Park Slope, Baldasare said that her resignation was under consideration and ultimately it shouldn’t be her decision if she stays.
“There’s no disagreement here that I made an error and we as a community have to come together. It’s not an option to not look at it and not address it.”