A Paterson, New Jersey woman is accusing a gift shop owner of racial bias after she and some summer campers she’s in charge of were booted from the trinkets section of Jenkinson’s Aquarium.
“My girls went inside the gift shop @jenkinsonaquarium and we were racially profiled and discriminated against!” Attiyya Barrett wrote on Facebook Friday, Aug. 10. “The racist lady behind the counter told 7 of my girls, ‘you’re not welcome here without a chaperone.’ They left and got a chaperone and went back in she then said ‘Didn’t I say YOUS ARE NOT WELCOME HERE! GET OUT!’ The girls ran out crying asking why they couldn’t buy something.
“THE CONSTRAINT I had to exhibit in front of them leaves a horrible taste in my mouth,” she added. “I had to explain to 40 girls that they are still valuable and they’re green dollars still spends even if racist folks try to hurt them! She won. TODAY! But FYI our Black dollars aren’t welcome in the Jenkinson’s Aquarium Gift Shop! Owner ‘Linda’ said so! .”
A video captured of the aftermath of the incident zeros in on the apparent shop owner. Barrett is heard explaining the situation from behind the camera before questioning the employee about her reasoning.
“I didn’t think she was a chaperone,” the woman tells Barrett of why she still refused to have the girls in the store.
“They’re not welcome in here,” she added.
Barrett told USA Today she works with the girls who are part of a summer camp in Paterson, New Jersey.
In a statement sent to Zellie Imani for Atlanta Black Star, Barrett broke the situation down further.
“Basically we were told we didn’t belong in the gift store,” she said. “The girls chose the aquarium as a trip because some had never gone to the shore and some had never been to [the] aquarium.”
Barrett said the campers were able to attend Jenkinson’s after raising funds, saving money and collecting donations from parents. After the girls ate lunch on the pier, Barrett said the campers were ushered into the aquarium. But when several of the girls, who ranged in age from 7 to 14, went into the gift shop things took a turn.
“Initially the stares (staff and I noticed), we ignored. After 7 of the girls … entered the gift shop and were told they needed a chaperone they were told to get out! They’re not wanted there. I went inside and tried to defuse but her anger, disrespect and racist attitude were a bit much. I’m super proud of the girls that they left with class and didn’t make [the] situation escalate!”
However, the young girls couldn’t hide their disappointment upon leaving the aquarium.
“On the way home emotions flew! Hurt! Anger! Confusion! The girls want her fired! They want a public apology! They want to know they matter! That their money ($1400 to be exact) matters! [I] hate that they had to go through this but I am a firm believer that EVERYTHING is a teachable moment. My prayer is they learn they can make change even at this age!”
Those who glimpsed Barrett’s story online are also sounding off on the incident, applauding the group’s strength.
“Don’t even worry about it take your money elsewhere where all of you are welcome with respect. Her loss another store gains.”
“I’m so sorry this happened to the girls or to even anyone it’s not right you kept your cool I probably would [have] accidentally knock[ed] some things over you know… but like I said she kept her cool. Wow .”
“Don’t worry karma will be at her business doorstep before you know it, it’s gonna come knocking Just like Jehovah Witness.”
Posted by Attiyya Barrett on Friday, August 10, 2018