On April 29th, 2011 Kenmore Middle School (KMS) in partnership with Bowen-McCauley dance troupe presented a program celebrating the life of Duke Ellington. The KMS jazz band provided live music for this presentation. The dance performance scheduled to present on Friday, April 29, 2011 10am for the elementary school children and 1pm for the KMS students and again on Saturday, April 30, 2011 at 2pm for the general public
The 10am performance on April 29, 2011 was presented to Carlin Springs Elementary School students. Bowen-McCauley’s second dance number entitled “Lil Rabbi Where’s Ya Mamee” I found to be racist and offensive to African-Americans and African American women especially. The skit involved a white child and her black mamee singing and dancing together to the song “Lil Rabbit where’s Ya Mamee”.
In protest I shared with Dr. John Word, Principal at KMS, Dr. Spencer-Chapman, Assistant Principal at KMS and Mr. McBride, Assistant Principal at KMS the racist and offensive content of the program. Dr. Word and Dr. Spencer-Chapman told me that they had not seen the show. They would review the show and get back to me. I also contacted Dr. Pat Murphy, Superintendent for APS and left a detailed message with his assistant. I called Dr. Murphy, again, 10 minutes later, because I wanted the “Mamee” scene taken out of the presentation. Dr. Murphy’s assistant told me that she sent the message to his blackberry. I called Meg Tuccillo, Assistant Superintendent for APS. I spoke with Ms. Tuccillo describing the content of the show. She said she would look into it. To the date of this letter I have not heard from Dr. Murphy or Meg Tuccillo.
Five minutes before the 1:00pm performance on Friday, April 29, 2011 Dr. Spencer-Chapman told me that there was nothing they could do about it because the show had been presented at the Kennedy Center. Early in the day Dr. Word told me that KMS and Bowen McCauley would not challenge the material and would not pull the “Mamee” scene out because Bowen-McCauley is a KMS partner. I told Dr. Spencer-Chapman that I was not going to let the Mamee celebration go unchallenged, that I would interrupt the performance. I went to talk to the Music Director, Mr. Fisher. I explained to Mr. Fisher that my daughter will not perform with Bowen-McCauley because of the racist and offensive content of the show.
I entered the auditorium at 1pm and took a seat. Dr. Word addressed the KMS student population, who were seated in the audience, explaining to the young people that they where to keep their minds open and celebrate the “fantastic performance” they were about to see. I wondered how he could declare the performance “fantastic” when he hadn’t seen it. Dr. Word introduces “Lucy Bowen-McCauley”. Lucy told the KMS students about her dance company, she congratulated the KMS students for the good behavior as audience members, and she mentioned nothing about Duke Ellington or Mamee.
The performance began and I remained silent until the “Mamee” scene presented. After the Mamee scene got underway I began to “boo” the presentation of Mamee and her white baby. The Mamee scene was a celebration of the many black women, enslaved and used as wet-nurses and the many other unspeakable crimes committed against their enslaved minds, souls and bodies. Lucy Bowen-McCauley resurrects Mamee and reminds Mamee of her enslavement. Lucy Bowen-McCauley presents Mamee singing and dancing enjoying being a slave. It was “Oh, happy day” all over again.
Because I booed the performance KMS leadership called the Arlington County Police - who did show-up. As I was peacefully leaving the building, the police officer asked Dr. Spencer-Chapman if he wanted her to arrest me. She said, “No.”
The evening of April 29, 2011 the KMS jazz band in partnership with Washington-Lee HS jazz band an evening of jazz music celebrating the life of Duke Ellington. I was scheduled to work as a volunteer for the event. I arrived at Kenmore around 4pm, April 29, 2011 and found Dr. Spencer, Dr. Word and Mr. McBride sitting together in Dr. Spencer-Chapman’s office. I gave them a copy of my letter explaining the content of Lucy Bowen-McCauley’s program and how its content is offensive and racist.
On April 30, 2011 I arrived at KMS to hand out my letter protesting against the Lucy Bowen-McCauley “Mamee” performance. An elderly white lady identified herself as an employee of Bowen-McCauley. She explained to me that “Mamee is just another word for Mother”. “We are celebrating the black culture”, she told me. I called Robin Roberts, parent of KMS student, and asked the lady to repeat her comment to Robin. She explained to Ms. Roberts exactly what she had told me. Moving away from the lady I handed my letter to incoming parents, the lady grab my arm and shoved me, and told me not to hand out my letter. I told the Bowen-McCauley representative, don’t touch me and don’t push me again. The police officer was posted outside. I told the police officer that the lady had pushed me. The lady explained to Officer Balch why she had shoved me. Officer Balch told me that I and the Bowen McCauley representative would have to go down to the magistrate, but since I didn’t have any witnesses the magistrate would not waste time on my complaint of assault. Two men from KMS maintenance staff tried to get the police officer to make me leave or stop me from handing out my flier. Officer Balch explained to all of us that it is public property so she could not force me out. However, Officer Balch did explain that if 5 of more members of the Bowen-McCauley “Gang” complained about my activity she would come back and arrest me.
After Officer Balch departed a black women approached me. She identified herself as Bowen McCauley Marketing and Public Relations Representative. She explained to me that she is black and she does not have problem with Bowen-McCauley’s presentation of “Mamee”. She explained to me that that song is “just a folk song.” Then she told me that she felt sorry for my daughter and my mother.
Then a photographer came out identified himself as working for Lucy Bowen-McCauley and began taking my picture, following me as I talked with parents and community members handing out my letter he photographed me for at least 5 to 10 minutes. So, I asked him if he wanted one of my letters. He said that he could not take my letter because he worked for Lucy Bowen-McCauley. So, I explained to him why I was out there. He said that he respectfully disagreed with me. I said your entitled that’s what makes America great! At that he stopped taking my picture and went back inside and did not return to take more pictures.
Then a young lady introduced herself to me she said her name is Ricky. Ricky identified herself as a Bowen-McCauley “new” employee. I told her that their Marketing and Public Relations Representative was very rude to me. She apologized and told me that they are trying to get rid of her any way because of her difficult personality. She told that the staff is going to have a conversation with Lucy Bowen-McCauley after the presentation to talk about removing that scene from the show because it is racist and offensive. Ricky stated that Lucy refused to remove the scene from the show, but that the Civil Rights Attorney’s had advised Lucy to make a statement explaining the scene before presenting the scene.
At 2pm on April 30, 2011 I entered KMS auditorium, where the Bowen-McCauley performance was staged with Robin Roberts a KMS parent. We seated ourselves. Paul Berry spoke first regarding the importance of connecting children with the arts, Mary Hynes Arlington County School Board Official and a Bowen McCauley Board Member spoke next and introduced Lucy Bowen-McCauley. Lucy introduced the show and the company. After Mary Hynes came off the stage I introduced myself to Mary Hynes. We shook hands. Mary told me that someone had interrupted the performance yesterday. I told her that was me. Mary said, “Don’t interrupt this performance.” I tried to pull my hand out of hers but she would not let go. Mary, attempting to physically remove me from the auditorium said, “Come and talk to me in the hall.” I asked Mary to stop pushing and pulling me and let go of my hand and my arm.
The performance had begun and I sat down. However, before the “Mamee” scene was to present the show was stopped. This was out-of-order because she had not interrupted the earlier performances. Lucy Bowen-McCauley came to the stage and explained that the word “Mamee is from the Appalachian tradition.” The show started up. Half way into the “Mamee” presentation I began to boo it. Mary Hynes and 4 additional Bowen-McCauley staff members began hitting me and pulling my arms in many different directions. I yelled out “get off of me”, “let me go” a man, representing Bowen McCauley put me in a head lock and squeezed my neck, he was wearing a pin strip shirt, I had to wrestle my neck free and my eyeglasses fell from my face. I searched for my glasses, found them and put them on. I stood up and Mary Hynes and the KMS school janitor Louis Villafane grabbed my arms and tried to pull me out of the auditorium. I pulled free from their grip. I attempted to return to my seat when another man also Bowen-McCauley staff member began pushing me in my chest and blocking my forward movements, no matter where I moved he blocked my movements by pushing me in my chest with his chest. I was able to get around him, I return to my set and continued booing the “Mamee” scene.
The scene concluded and I was leaving the auditorium when the woman who had earlier identified herself as the Marketing and Public Relations Representative yelled at me “Get your black ass out of here.” I said to her “You jealous?” She replied, “I feel sorry for your daughter she needs a new mother!” I ignored her and left the auditorium.
In the hall outside of the auditorium the man with the pin stripped shirt, who had put me in a head lock approached, me again. He told me that he was going to call the police. I said, "Good". "I'm calling them also to report you for assaulting me”
A woman who had earlier identified herself as a Bowen McCauley staff member followed me while talking on her cell phone making it clear that she was reporting me to someone on the phone.
Police Officers’ Balch, King, Pena and Rodriguez responded to our calls for police intervention. Officer King was the first to respond. Officer King asked me if I wanted an ambulance I told her yes. The ambulance arrived and I was examined and treated for bruising and swelling on my neck and arms. On my left arm were thumb print bruising and on my neck swelling and soreness. I was not able to use my left hand to write because my arm was to sore. I had to ask Ms. Roberts to write my statement as I dictated it. I told Officer Balch that I wanted to file assault charges. Maurisa Potts, Marketing & PR Representative for Bowen McCauley told the Officer Balch no one touched me. Robin Roberts injected and said “…five of you assaulted her, attacked her”. “She didn’t touch anyone.” Officer Balch went inside the school and took statements from the Bowen McCauley staff and board members who had physically attacked me. Officer Balch instructed Officer Pena that I was to be detained while the Bowen McCauley staff and board members were instructed by Officer Balch to go to the magistrates office and file a complaint against me. Officer Balch also asked the Bowen McCauley staff and Board Members of they wanted to file assault charges against me. They declined to file the assault charges.
While Officer Pena and Officer Rodriquez detained me outside of KMS a man and his eight year old son approached me. The man declared. “You are right.” “I agree with you.” “If I had known that they were going to be showing that I would have not attended.” Then his eight year old son said to the Officers Pena and Rodriquez, “I saw what they did to her.” I said to the little boy, you saw it?” He said, ‘Yes”. I asked the gentlemen if his son could tell the police what he saw. The little boy said, “I saw them pushing her and blocking her every time she tried to get out of the way.” “The man was pushing her in her chest.” Officer Pena did not question the child further neither did Officer Rodriquez. When Officer Balch returned to KMS 4 hours later I asked the father if the child could repeat what he saw to Officer Balch. The man gave his son permission to repeat it. The father pointed to a bald headed man and asked his son if he was the man who was pushing me in my chest. The child replied, “no.” But, in fact, that was the man, identified by the boys’ father, who was pushing me in my chest and blocking my exit from the Bowen McCauley gang assault.
Officer Balch never asked the father of the son to take a statement. When it was clear she should have asked the father what he witnessed, because, if the son saw what happened so did the father. Officer Balch told me that the 5 people, all employees of Bowen McCauley did not anyone hit me or touch me, that no one saw me looking for my glasses and that there were no witness to the assault on me. Robin Roberts stated that I saw everything. Officer Balch stated that Ms. Roberts’ statement was made after Ms. Roberts had recorded my statement, therefore Ms. Roberts's statement was not considered trustworthy.
I was detained by Arlington County Police and charged with a Class 1 Misdemeanor.