BY CASH MICHAELS OF THE WILMINGTON JOURNAL
[WILMINGTON] A December 2017 Christmas calendar of activities, displaying what one person described as a cartoonish illustration of ”…a slave lady” – complete with black skin, big pink lips, bulging eyes, a handkerchief wrapped around her head and dressed like Butterfly McQueen’s character from the classic Southern antebellum film, Gone With the Wind, was reportedly distributed to residents of the predominately White Bradley Creek Assisted Living facility at Carolina Bay in the past several days.
Local and State NAACP officials are furious and want immediate action, even though the calendars reportedly have been removed from the facility already.
“This [calendar] is demeaning,” Deborah Dicks Maxwell, President of the New Hanover County NAACP, told The Journal Wednesday. “It is appalling that in 2017 this is still occurring.”
The racially offensive calendar illustration is seen on the right side underneath the official logo of “Bradley Creek at Carolina Bay,” which also displays an illustration of a tropical pelican.
Under that is a green stripe with “1920’s” displayed, and under that, framed with a thick red border, is the racially sensitive illustration of the “mammy,” standing with her back to a window with a Christmas wreath hanging, holding what looks like a long spoon or ladle in her right hand, and a tray in the other. The “mammy” is also wearing a full apron and appears to be addressing whoever is viewing the illustration.
“MERRY CHRISTMAS,” the “mammy” is apparently saying, per the words printed on the calendar next to her image. “It takes dough for Christmas presents. And all I have is “Crust.” But wish you MERRY CHRISTMAS? Oh, Honey don’t I just!”
Then under the words appears to be a written signature spelling “Thelma.”
On the left side of the calendar, under “DECEMBER,” is a listing of December dates with activities next to them in a red box, preceded by a green rectangular box containing the words, “Special Events.” Then, under that, written in a black on white background, there are the words, “Remember to stay warm this winter!!!”
Following that, tips on protecting oneself against the cold weather are listed in a green box. Under that, a red rectangle with the words, “Facts about December,” followed by an empty green rectangular box.
However, the calendar so offended at least two of the African-American staffers there that they complained to management, forcing the calendars to be reportedly collected back from the residents but not before one of the Black staffers took a picture of it and gave it to The Reverend Kojo Nantambu, of the NCNAACP, who, in turn, brought it to The Journal.
Nantambu later secured one of the actual calendars and brought that to The Journal as well.
That staffer, a medical technician who identified herself in an interview with The Journal as Marvila Jackson, of Wilmington, told this paper the calendar was placed “…in all the residents’ rooms,” and when she first saw it Monday, said, “I was upset by it.”
When asked why she was upset, Ms Jackson replied, “It’s an all white place, so I wouldn’t expect them to put that out …I mean, if you’re going to put something out, and it’s not even a Santa Claus thing , it’s a…, you know, a slave lady…and that’s how I felt when I [saw] it.”
Jackson said that she was unaware if any of the residents complained about the calendar, but a “Black housekeeping guy” actually complained to management before she did.
When asked who would have allegedly been responsible for the calendars in the first place. Ms. Jackson replied, “ I want to say the Activity Director.”
Jackson said that the Activity Director, whom she called “Jenny,” said she thought the calendars were “nice.”
“I was like, ‘Why would somebody do this?,’ and she was like, ‘You know my heart,’ and she kept saying that she didn’t mean [any] harm by it.’ Well how did you think people were going to take it?” Jackson recalled asking rhetorically.
On Wednesday, when Ms. Jackson spoke with The Journal, she said that she “got a phone call at 5:00…”, that afternoon, presumably from Bradley Creek management, telling her that she was “suspended until further notice.” Ms Jackson, who has been working at Bradley Creek for about a year, went on to say she was told the reason for the suspension was a “resident complaint” that she says she knows nothing about.
When asked if she thought management was suspending her because they found out that she took the picture of the calendar, Ms. Jackson replied, “Uh-huh. They probably did.”
Officials with both the local and State NAACP were aghast when they saw the calendar picture and were apprised of the details.
“The New Hanover County NAACP wants an immediate recourse taken in regard to this incident,” said NHC NAACP president, Deborah Maxwell. “The facility was deliberate in their negative actions, and we want action with regards to this incident.”
“This [calendar] display is offensive to the highest degree and must be condemned,” demanded attorney and NCCU law professor, Irving Joyner, Chair of the NCNAACP Legal Redress Committee. “If this [calendar] represents the thinking or mindset of the assisted living facility, the State should close it down, and/or the employees who were responsible for this offensive display should be fired. In this instance, an empty apology is meaningless without some significant punishment being directed to the governing officials of this corporate entity.”
The Wilmington Journal, after being alerted by The Reverend Nantambu about the calendar and speaking with Ms. Jackson, called Bradley Creek Thursday morning for comment and confirmed that the Activity Director working there was a Jennifer Dicicco Alaimo, whose name was ascertained through her Facebook page.
Then The Journal asked to speak with the head administrator, who was identified as Melissa Crouch.
After, at first telling the receptionist that she would speak to The Journal later that afternoon, which was not acceptable, a woman, identifying herself as Ms. Crouch, finally came to the phone.
When told of the calendar and given a description of the black “mammy” illustration on it and asked if she were familiar with it, Crouch replied, “I did see that.”
When told that Activity Director Jennifer Alaimo was alleged to be the one responsible for the calendars and asked how such an error in judgment could have taken place in the first place, Ms. Crouch stopped answering questions and suggested that a list of The Journal’s questions be sent to the corporate office for response.
Later Thursday, before The Journal could send its questions, Jeff Wilson, the COO of Liberty Health Care Management, part of the corporate ownership of Bradley Creek at Carolina Bay, issued the following statement to The Journal in response to this newspaper’s earlier call for comment:
The administration and management of the Bradley Creek Health Center became aware this past Monday of an offensive image that was unfortunately included in a monthly resident calendar that had been distributed to the residents last Friday, December 1. The calendars were immediately removed from the facility.
The owners, management, and administration of Bradley Creek are deeply embarrassed by, and sincerely apologize for, the use of this image and the pain it has caused. The thoughtless choice by one employee to use this image is not in any way a reflection of this organization’s values or culture.
The Wilmington Journal is following up with written questions to COO Wilson for a subsequent story.