Hamden children’s gym owner apologizes after refusing ‘Black Lives Matter’ shirt

HAMDEN – When a two-year-old grandmother brought the child to Rascals Gym last Wednesday morning, she was told the child should change before using the indoor playground, according to Janina Tauro.

The child, who is black, was wearing a “Black Lives Matter” t-shirt. Company owner Angie Martin told the family political slogans weren’t allowed in space, said Tauro, who is the mother of the child and learned of the incident later in the day.

The events sparked a protest on Friday and a public apology from Martin followed, the family said.

But the child’s parents said they would take their things elsewhere.

“My mom just felt really humiliated and targeted and in danger at that point,” Tauro said of the incident. “A gesture like this is really hurtful and racist and only targets us globally. “

For the family, the slogan “Black Lives Matter” is not about politics, but is an affirmation of their identity and their values.

“I think our bodies – black and brown bodies – are not political,” Tauro said. “(‘Black lives matter’) is a personal belief that we embrace and embody. … Our life matters to us, and all black and brown children matter to us, and I think especially that when the country itself is based on a value system that often makes black and brown children the lowest on this value system, it is even more important to keep shouting that “black lives matter” and that there is nothing political about it. “

Dozens of people gathered in the Rascals parking lot on Friday morning to show their support for Tauro’s family. Many attendees wore shirts or held signs bearing the slogan “Black Lives Matter,” according to a report from the New Haven Independent, which estimates the event attracted about 60 attendees.

Asked to comment on the matter, Martin sent a written statement stating that the company has long had “a policy that all Rascals Gym attendees and accompanying adults refrain from displaying any actions, clothing or speech that trigger a heavy and adult conversation “.

But she decided to change that policy following the events of last week, she wrote, also apologizing for what happened.

Martin did not immediately respond to a request for a copy of the original policy, which was put in place because “very early childhood is a special time when our children play together without knowing religious, racial, ethnic and social differences.” . according to the statement.

“At Rascals Gym, I strive to protect this moment in time, in the hope that children forge new friendships and grow into empathetic, caring adults who see through those differences,” said Martin.

“My actions of asking an adult to change a young child for a Black Lives Matter shirt came from this protective place in my heart,” said Martin. “As I am not a person of color, I did not initially see how this request, while well intentioned, was hurtful and, in reality, did not protect that particular spark and charisma of a young child. . “

“I offer my sincere apologies to the family I hurt, the families of Rascals Gym and the entire community,” the statement continued. “My actions were callous and for that I am sorry.”

Martin also placed a sign in the company window that read: “In this house we believe black lives matter, women’s rights are human rights, no human is illegal, science is real. , love and love, kindness is everything. “

But Tauro decided that his daughter would not be returning to Rascals.

“It’s not something that can be changed overnight,” she said of the apology.


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