BOSTON – Last May was supposed to be a special day in the lives of a young group of middle schoolers. Students from the Helen Y. Davis Leadership Academy Charter Public School in Dorchester were rewarded for good behavior and good grades with a field trip to the Museum of Fine Arts. They had been learning about Greek mythology and this was intended to be a way for them to interact with their learning.
Instead, it turned out to be a harrowing experience. Marvelyne Lamy, the teacher, posted a long Facebook update going into detail about what her kids experienced.
It began with security guards following her students from exhibit to exhibit. While white students touched different displays are were not castigated, her students (all black and brown kids) were yelled at for touching anything. As the day went on, security guards kept following their class very deliberately. Then, two visitors made extremely offensive comments to individuals in class. A reminder that these were 12-year-old kids.
The teacher decided to get her kids out and vowed to never return. In the months that followed, the MFA released an open letter apologizing and have now taken concrete action by introducing a new position: Director of Inclusion.
Chief of learning and community engagement Makeeba McCreary, who will be managing the new senior director of inclusion, spoke about the new position, “this person in the short term will need to build really strong relationships across the museum, both within learning and community engagement but also across the other departments."
While some will view this new position as a direct response to the incident in May, the museum asserts that this position has been in the works for a while and is a response to a variety of factors. Furthermore, they claim that several other measures need to be put in place to avoid such a situation from happening again.
“A lot of that work has to do with imagining what kinds of interventions would have been helpful, but also what some of the barriers were that they experienced while they were here,” says McCreary.