Video of children performing with blackface masks goes viral, teacher suspended

Source: WGCL

In a video that has gone viral, dozens of students performed on stage with blackface masks at an Atlanta school, now parents want answers.

Parents of second grade students at the Kindezi Old Fourth Ward Charter School say being offended is an understatement.

"I thought it was damaging. I thought it was dangerous," said Marcus Coleman. " Here we are in a climate where our kids are dealing with military warfare, but now psychological warfare as well."

The masks were apart of a Black History Month performance in which students recited the poem "We Wear the Mask" by Paul Laurence Dunbar.

Fourth grader Arianna Nickerson was there and says she was not bothered by the masks.

"I'm not really offended by it. I think that is kind of offending to some people. It kind of matters of the perspective of people," says Nickerson.

The perspective of most is that it looks, sounds and feels like minstrel show mimicking the black community.

Sixth grader Chase Coleman was in the play and while he wasn't one of the students holding a blackface mask, his dad, Marcus, is still outraged by the performance.

"We don't need to put our children in blackface to know we still have it bad as black folks," said Coleman.

Marcus and his son took to the morning radio to voice some of their concerns.

"Terribly executed on teachers part but the school, you don't have a performance, a production without checkpoints."

Coleman said he's appalled that prior to the performance no one raised a red flag, but a statement to parents the school did apologize saying "This was a poor and inappropriate decision and we sincerely apologize and accept responsibility for the hurt, anger, frustration, and disappointment that this has caused."

Parents who met with the principal were assured she would get to the bottom of the situation.

CBS Radio Host Rashad Richey explained why outrage was the response to the blackface masks.

"Here is why blackface is offensive, it's theatrical makeup and it was used many years ago by none black performances to basically mock black people," said Richey. "When black people started acting in these same performances, white audiences did not want to see their actual black skin so black performers were made to also cover up their black skin."

The teacher in charge of the play has also come out and apologized. She says her goal was not to offend but to educate the community about blackface. The teacher has been suspended for one month, from April 12-May 14, without pay.

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Brittany Miller is an Emmy-award winning journalist, who joined CBS46 News in April 2015.

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