Miami-Dade County

Pictures of man in blackface with Medley mayor draw complaints from NAACP. ‘It’s sad.’

A man showed up in blackface to Medley fashion show for seniors Sept. 20.
A man showed up in blackface to Medley fashion show for seniors Sept. 20.

Pictures from the town of Medley’s annual Senior Fashion Show surfaced Thursday, including one that showed the town’s mayor smiling with three other people, one of whom was in blackface.

Ruban Roberts, the president of Miami’s NAACP, said the picture, obtained by WPLG Channel 10, is offensive and “shows poor taste.”

“It’s sad in 2019 that we are dealing with this issue,” said Ruban Roberts, president of the NAACP in Miami. “We should be beyond this. It shows no purpose.”

The event, hosted by the Medley Police Department, was held Sept. 20 and had the theme African Safari. Medley, a small town in Northwest Miami-Dade, is about 92 percent Hispanic and about 1 percent black, according to the 2010 Census.

Mayor Roberto Martell, who was reached while out of town on Thursday, said “there was no malice involved.”

“This was one of our seniors who dressed up,” he said. “We never wanted to hurt anyone’s feelings.”

He said he planned on meeting with the NAACP this week.

Martell released a statement Friday apologizing for being “insensitive.”

“While posing for a photo with our beloved seniors in Medley is something I do on a regular basis, posing for this particular photo clearly sent the wrong message,” he said. “I’m upset with myself for not realizing at the time this photo was being taken how serious and hurtful this image would be to people of color. I was insensitive. For this, I am genuinely sorry.”

Medley Police Chief Jeanette Said-Jinete released a statement: “The Medley Police Department has been running our Senior Fashion Show for 19 years. This event brings our senior citizens together to promote community and have a good time. This year’s theme was an African Safari, and unfortunately, a 78-year-old participant dressed inappropriately and clearly did not understand how others might be offended. For this, we apologize and regret the incident.”

Roberts said he looks forward to meeting with Medley officials to discuss the incident.

“We need to spread a message of awareness and prevent this from happening again,” Roberts said.

Miami Herald staff writer Martin Vassolo contributed to this report

Carli Teproff grew up in Northeast Miami-Dade and graduated from Florida International University in 2003. She became a full-time reporter for the Miami Herald in 2005 and now covers breaking news.