Pelham’s racist ‘laundry,’ deleted by MOPs, now hanging at Pelham Art Center

Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, Sabrina Kimberly wrote about her personal experiences with racism in Pelham and asked a friend who is a parent, Astiney Montiel, to post the stories on the Moms of Pelham Facebook group (MOPs). Almost immediately, Montiel received several comments and private messages from others regarding racist treatment they’d received in town.

Within a few hours, the posts were deleted for violating the group’s rules, Kimberly said. Montiel revised the originals in order to comply with the guidelines, including taking out names, but the posts were removed once again. With MOPs out of the picture as a way to communicate her stories, Kimberly submitted them to Progressive Women of Pelham’s Facebook group, where the messages received an outpouring of support and captured the attention of member Paula Wood, who turned the posts into “Pelham’s Laundry,” an installation that went up in the Pelham Art Center courtyard on Juneteenth (June 19) and will run through July 4.

Hung like laundry, the posts include those written by Kimberly as well as some of the 60 she received and put up under her name in the PWP group to protect the anonymity of the senders.

Luba Chernov, administrator of MOPs, said of her decision to delete the posts, “First, I had no way of knowing if these were true. Some were anecdotal incidents which occurred in what I believe is PMHS. Did the person report these to school officials?  How did they respond? She mentioned many police officers by name. Were they brought to the chief of police? Or the village board? These are serious accusations whose veracity is questionable.”

Chernov said when she deleted the posts made by Montiel, she received a direct message on Facebook from Kimberly that said, “You really deleted the #thankspelham stories off the page?? Pelham is (a) racist-ass town, and I hope you guys get what you deserve.”

Kimberly confirmed she sent those comments by DM. “I sure did say that to her. I was very angry at the time.”

“I noticed a lot of silence from my white peers,” Kimberly said of the reaction to the initial posts. “I wanted to start an important discussion. The hashtag, #thankspelham, was started to call attention to this issue and create a better environment for children of color.”

Kimberly said she was not surprised by the fact that African Americans in Pelham have experienced racial abuse from peers and neighbors: “This happens everywhere.”

At the same time, she said she was happy to see individuals openly share their experiences and not keep them bottled up inside. 

The Pelham Art Center on Sunday described  “Pelham’s Laundry” as “a public art project in our courtyard” that “sheds light on individuals’ experiences of racism in Pelham that is unfortunately in all too recent history.”

Those wishing to make a submission, can contact thankspelham@gmail.com.