It started as a post online from a River Forest woman.
“Happy Halloween! Bob Marley tribute this year (in the form of a banana),” Missy D’Alise wrote on Facebook.
The problem: D’Alise painted her face black, harking back to an era when minstrel shows with white actors did the same, parodying and dehumanizing black people who were enslaved for hundreds of years.
Not only was she roundly lambasted for painting her face, D’Alise was criticized for the costume itself: a comical banana with dreadlocks and a Rastafarian hat.
The backlash on internet chat forums was swift.
“This is so offensive, a terrible representation of our village and I am horrified and disgusted,” one commenter wrote on Facebook.
Another wrote: “Blackface has never been ok. Will NEVER be ok. Why do folks act like they didn’t get the memo?”
Several commenters called for boycotts of The Dailey Method Oak Park, a yoga and Pilates studio at 208 S. Marion St., falsely believing that D’Alise was still an owner and instructor at the business.
Dailey Method has since released a statement noting that D’Alise, a former owner, is in no way connected to the business.
“From a business perspective, I can tell you that it is completely inconsistent with our values and policies at The Dailey Method that anyone in our community — student, instructor, or owner — would do anything that has the potential to threaten the strong sense of inclusion and acceptance that defines who we are,” The Dailey Method owner Holly Blakely said in an email to patrons.
D’Alise spoke by telephone with Wednesday Journal, tearfully apologizing and saying she did not know the costume was hurtful.
Her voice shaking over the phone, D’Alise read a statement she wrote: “I meant no ill will and now realize I have some racial blind spots. I plan to reach out to community leaders and work on these issues, so I can grow as a person. I sincerely apologize and know there’s no excuse for what I did.”
She said in the interview that the costume was a last-minute decision and she originally aimed to use yellow finger paint but realized it wouldn’t work. Instead, she used the black face paint and played music by reggae legend Bob Marley as she passed out candy to children.
D’Alise said she moved to River Forest because of its diversity and that she’s never thought of herself as being racist.
“What I’ve learned is I have a racial blind spot,” she said.
Asked how she felt about being called racist by so many people online, D’Alise said it was “devastating.”
“I love Bob Marley, too, but I made a big mistake and didn’t know what I was doing,” she said.
Asked if she was aware of the legacy of racist blackface performances and minstrel shows, D’Alise said did not realize what they were before the incident.