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Cambridge School Committee member releases statement following apology from Connors Farm

“Many people saw themselves in our story and we hope that this becomes a learning opportunity for all those involved.”

Manikka Bowman and Jeff Myers. Christopher Huang

A member of the Cambridge School Committee and her husband say they are “humbled” and grateful for the support they have received after they came forward last week alleging they were racially profiled and accused of stealing during a visit to a Danvers orchard.

Manikka Bowman, who is vice-chair of the School Committee, and her husband, Jeff Myers, detailed the “traumatic experience” they had on their Labor Day trip to Connors Farm with their two young children, during which a police officer was called to the business.

The couple said after picking fruit in the orchard, they walked toward the farm store to buy apple cider doughnuts and pay for the extra apples they realized their young children had harvested that didn’t fit into the required bag. On their way to the store, Bowman and Myers said they were stopped by a security officer and then escorted inside the shop, where the couple said their belongings were searched and a police officer was called to the scene.

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Danvers officials said the facts laid out by the Cambridge family in their public letter were corroborated by a police report on the incident.

Both the business and Danvers town officials have since offered apologies to the family.

On Friday, Bowman said she and her husband are “humbled” by the support they have received in the wake of the incident.

“Our family is incredibly grateful for the outpouring of support from family, friends, and the public at large,” Bowman and Myers said in a statement. “Many people saw themselves in our story and we hope that this becomes a learning opportunity for all those involved. We appreciate the Town of Danvers officials and their swift response to us. We are confident they will do the necessary work to address cultural awareness and sensitivity when dealing with the public.”

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Connors Farm said in a statement on Thursday posted to its Facebook page, which has since been deactivated, that the business regretted the incident.

“We have extended our personal apology to the family,” the business wrote. “We do our best to train our employees to handle all customer issues with courtesy and respect at all times. We are taking further steps to ensure that staff will undergo diversity, equity and inclusion training. Please know that everybody is welcome on our farm.”

In a previous post, the business appeared to reference the incident by stating their “right to inspect all backpacks, bags and strollers” exiting the orchard. But that statement was later deleted.

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Bowman and Myers said Connors Farm has agreed to the family’s request that the money they spent at the business be refunded and donated to the Essex County Community Foundation to support racial equity and that the farm will conduct mandatory workshops for its employees on racial equity and implicit bias.

“We also acknowledge that the Connors Farm statement came after it made social media posts that were not sensitive to the seriousness of the moment,” the couple said. “Clearly, Connors Farm has work to do to live into their words, and we hope that the owner’s stated intentions will be a meaningful step forward. At this point, it is up to the Danvers community to self-reflect and [hold] itself accountable to the statements that have been publicly shared.”

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The incident at Connors Farm has also been condemned by Congressman Seth Moulton, who issued a statement on Monday.

“I shouldn’t have to say this, but let me be perfectly clear: Racism, racial profiling and any form of discrimination have absolutely no place in our community or anywhere else,” Moulton said. “These experiences are degrading and dehumanizing.”

His statement also referenced another incident that occurred in his district last week, in which two Beverly residents questioned the qualifications of a Black school board member during a public meeting, remarks which city officials condemned as an “overt display of racism,” The Salem News reports.

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“For so long, simply living while Black has caused white people and other groups to view their neighbors as objects of suspicion and scrutiny, unworthy of existing in certain spaces, in these cases at an apple orchard or on a school board,” Moulton said in his statement. “When we fail to call it out or dismiss it as the ‘race card,’ not only are we complicit but we contribute to a culture that questions the motives of those speaking out and demanding the bare minimum: the constitutional rights to which they are entitled by birth.”

The congressman said white community members must especially do the “hard work of change” and intervene when witnessing such incidents as those that occurred last week.

“How many families at the apple orchard or the school board meeting saw what was happening and turned a blind eye or said nothing because it was uncomfortable?” he said. “Just this past year, many of us stood together and proclaimed that ‘Black Lives Matter.’ It feels good to protest and hold a sign. People got likes and clicks for it, but the act means nothing if we do not actually make changes or insist on consequences when the actions of white people—especially people we know—demean our Black neighbors and friends.”

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