Video of children performing on stage with blackface masks causes outrage

By Mary Kekatos, DailyMail

An Atlanta charter school has come under fire after second-graders with blackface masks put on a performance for Black History Month. 

A video went viral of the students from Kindezi Old Fourth Ward Charter School reciting Paul Laurence Dunbar's poem 'We Wear The Mask' while holding masks of black faces with exaggerated bright red lips and white eyes.

The Dunbar poem, published in 1913, speaks of oppression endured by African-Americans. 
It starts: 'We wear the mask that grins and lies, It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes, This debt we pay to human guile; With torn and bleeding hearts we smile.'

A video of the performance posted on Facebook went viral and has been viewed more than 2.8 million times. 

Parents of the second grade students said they found the recitation to be offensive. 

'I thought it was damaging. I thought it was dangerous,' Marcus Coleman told CBS46. 'Here we are in a climate where our kids are dealing with military warfare, but now psychological warfare as well.'

Another parent, Ari Lima, whose third grade son appeared in a different part of the program, said she was shocked the kids were allowed to perform the act.  

'The children have been rehearsing for months, dress rehearsals, staying after school... There's no way in the world no one saw this. They allowed this to get on stage,' she told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Video of the live performance shows it being met with light applause. Lima added: 'You could kind of feel the uncomfortableness in the room.'

The school released a statement in reaction to the outrage, apologizing for the performance.

'Kindezi Old Fourth Ward sincerely apologizes and accepts responsibility for the hurt, anger, frustration and disappointment caused by the poor judgement we made in having students use masks that mimic blackface,' the statement read in part.   

'The school said it is investigating the matter and is committed to making sure 'this never happens again.' 

Kindezi spokeswoman Elizabeth Sharp Broderick told the Constitution that, although Black History Month is celebrated in February, the school schedules its performance on its availability which was in March this year

Blackface can be traced to white performers in minstrel shows starting in the mid-1830s.

They would paint their faces black and their lips red to portray a black character, oftentimes as a caricature of reality.

The stereotypes played a significant role in cementing and spreading racist images, attitudes, and perceptions worldwide. 

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