An employee at a local eatery, dressed in blackface as Aunt Jemina for Halloween, sparked an afternoon of protests from angry Flagler College students along St. George Street on Tuesday.
“No blackface. No KKK. No racist USA,” was just one of the many chants coming from the crowd in front of The Bunnery Bakery & Cafe as students lined both sides of the pedestrian-only street.
Students Hasani Malone and Courtney Olson said the protest started after the owner of The Bunnery called the police trying to get them to leave the restaurant.
Olson said she had gone in late Tuesday morning to get something to eat and saw the white woman in the costume.
“I told her it was culturally offensive and oppressive,” Olson said. “So I went and got Hasani.”
Malone said she tried to explain to the woman how the costume was “perpetuating racial stereotypes” and said they weren’t going to leave the restaurant until the woman took it off. (Malone said she sat down as part of her initial protest.)
The owner eventually called the police and Olson, Malone and two of their friends left after police arrived and spoke with them.
Then more students gathered out front.
Pamela Cross, who owns The Bunnery with her husband, said Tuesday afternoon that she wasn’t there for the initial interaction when her husband called the police. But with protesters standing outside her front door, she said no offense was ever meant by the costume or the employee who chose to wear it.
“She has biracial grandchildren,” Cross said of the employee, whose name she declined to give. “She is the least racist person in the world.”
“She went home in tears,” she said.
Cross said she doesn’t run a racist business and has a diverse workforce.
“I have black, I have white, I have Asian, I have LGBT,” she said. “I treat them like my family and they work for me like they’re family. There’s no bias or racism, I won’t tolerate it.”
Despite efforts from Flagler College Vice President of Academic Affairs Alan Woolfolk and history professor Mike Butler to facilitate a discussion between the two sides and elicit an apology from Cross, Malone, by early afternoon, said she hadn’t heard what she was looking for.
“We want them to acknowledge that what they did was racist,” Malone said. “We don’t want, ‘Sorry you are offended.’”
Later in the day, a message appeared on The Bunnery’s Facebook page saying that “we do not support racism or encourage the separation of any races.”
“We hope that civil conversation and an exchange of history and perspective will prevail so that we can all gain greater understanding from this event,” it continued.
“We are very sorry for our lack of cultural perspective and offer our sincere apology,” the statement said in closing.