MEDLEY, Fla. - Photos obtained by Local 10 News show a man in blackface at an event held by the Medley Police Department.
"If you know the history of blackface, since the 1800s it was used as a minstrel show, a way to depict black people in a derogatory way," said Ruban Roberts, president of the NAACP in Miami-Dade County.
The incident occurred at an annual fashion show for senior citizens. The theme: African Safari.
The man in blackface was also wearing a tribal-like costume and holding a spear.
"In 2019, the mayor (and) police department should be aware of what those images conjure up in people of color," Roberts said.
Smiling in a photo with the man was Medley Mayor Roberto Martell.
"It definitely shows ignorance but, more importantly, it shows racial insensitivity," Roberts said.
Local 10 News left multiple messages for the mayor, but has not yet heard back.
Coincidentally, Local 10 was told he's out of town.
Medley Police Chief Jeanette Said-Jinete initially agreed to answer questions on camera, but later declined, sending Local 10 a written statement.
"The Medley Police Department has been running our senior fashion show for 19 years," the statement read. "This event brings our senior citizens together to promote community and have a good time. This year's theme was 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."
Images on social media show a man in blackface dancing and being cheered on. He even got an award at the fashion show.
Those criticizing the police department and the mayor said they should have known better and dealt with the situation immediately.
The NAACP plans to meet with police and the mayor to discuss the incident and make sure it doesn't happen again.
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