A group of young African-American girls was kicked out of an aquarium gift shop by an employee, but, according to the group’s program director, Attiyya Barrett, “the racist lady did not win.
Several girls, most in their early teens, were trying to buy souvenirs of their trip to the Jersey Shore when they were tossed out by a shop worker.
Four African-American girls from Paterson, ages 12 and 13, said Sunday that their much-anticipated, first-ever outing to the Jersey Shore ended on a bitter note Friday when they were told to leave a gift shop in Point Pleasant Beach by an employee who said, “You’re not welcome here.”
The girls, part of a larger group on a day trip with a Paterson-based summer youth camp, said that a gift shop worker at Jenkinson’s Aquarium told them to leave because they didn’t have a chaperone, even though, they said, white children in the store were also unattended.
Attiyya Barrett, who heads an organization that offers summer camps and tutoring programs for children, said she believed the incident at Jenkinson’s Aquarium Gift Shop on the Jersey shore was racially motivated.
Barrett posted a video of the incident on her Facebook page that was shared more than 65,000 times. In the video, as Barrett pans the camera from the girls’ faces to that of the employee, the employee tells her, “They’re not welcome in here.”
“Meanwhile, there were other white girls unattended and playing with items and they were not asked to leave,” she added.
Jenkinson’s Boardwalk said it has suspended the employee while it carries out an investigation.
“My girls went inside the gift shop @jenkinsonaquarium and we were racially profiled and discriminated against!” she wrote. She said that a female employee told the girls they were not welcome without a chaperone — although, according to one of the girls, Kianna Williams, they saw other young girls, who were white, without chaperones in the store. Regardless, the group obeyed and left to get their 32-year-old camp counselor.
Upon re-entering, chaperone in tow, the same employee said, “Didn’t I say YOUS ARE NOT WELCOME HERE! GET OUT!” Barrett wrote in her Facebook post. “The girls ran out crying asking why they couldn’t buy something,” she wrote. “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!” In her post, she identified the employee as “Linda.”
“We were all excited to go because a lot of the girls had not been there before,” Kianna Williams, 13, told the North Jersey Record.
Jayla Bush, 12, said that even when they came back with their chaperone, Linda “started yelling at us, that we weren’t allowed to be in there … She was loud and her expression was mad,” according to the North Jersey Record.Williams said Linda threatened to get security, and that’s when she started to wonder what she did wrong to deserve this.
Jenkinson’s suspended the woman in the video and apologized to the group.
In a statement, the company said: ‘We strive to provide all of our customers with an enjoyable experience and we clearly missed the mark this time.
The girls have participated in a formal tea party with women on Paterson’s city council and had an ice cream social. They also had field trips to the Splashplex in East Hanover and Dave and Busters, as well as Friday’s trip to the Jersey Shore.
Barrett said the program pays its bills with fundraising campaigns, and that some parents of children in the program volunteer to pay the costs of children who can’t afford it.
The girls all said they would like to see the store employee apologize, especially to the younger girls who were with them.
“She ruined a good experience for us,” Kianna Williams said.
Barrett was furious about the exchange which she said undermined everything the camp taught.
‘The constraint I had to exhibit in front of them leaves a horrible taste in my mouth.
‘I had to explain to 40 girls that they are still valuable and their green dollars still spend even if racist folks try to hurt them,’ she fumed on social media.