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Racial profiling in Boston night clubs

Bridgit Brown | 9/13/2011, 11:11 p.m.

Disturbed by a rash of racial incidents at Boston night clubs, City Councilors Ayanna Pressley and Tito Jackson are holding a public hearing next month to increase awareness of the state Public Accommodations Law.

While the law prohibits making any distinction, discrimination, or restriction in admission to or treatment in a place of public accommodation, this year has seen a significant number of claims alleging that bars, nightclubs and restaurants in the city of Boston have been violating it.

Councilor Pressley said that the hearing will allow representatives from the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination, the City of  Boston Consumer Affairs and Licensing department and other interested parties to testify on matters related to the law.

The hearing follows a series of actions taken by Pressley and other elected officials to ensure that the law is being upheld and to also rid the public conscience of what many have come to see as a false sense of post-racial euphoria in Boston.

“This is something that I have been planning to do for a while,” said Pressley. “On the heels of The Cure Lounge proceedings and the recent allegations against other venues, it just seems timely to do it.”

Some of the issues that will be addressed at the hearing include the ways that discrimination is being reportedly played out in Boston.

Certain patrons complain that venues have a dress code that excludes baggy jeans, sneakers, hooded sweatshirts and baseball  caps. And certain promoters allege that some venues have increased the cover charges and fees on services aimed at black and Latino consumers.

“All of these things are eroding the social fabric of the city, and  sending a message that this is an unwelcoming and uninviting place if  you are black and or Latino, and I know better than that,” Pressley explained.

Last November, Pressley sent a letter to Patricia Malone, director of the Mayor’s Office of Consumer Affairs and Licensing, informing her about an incident that had occurred at The Cure Lounge just a few days earlier.

On that night, attendees to a Harvard-Yale alumni party at The Cure Lounge were asked to leave the venue.

D. Omavi Harshaw, a graduate student at Harvard who was at The Cure Lounge that night published an article on TheRoot.com, an online source of African American news and commentary that lamented his frustration about what happened that night.

Wrote Harshaw, “We were kicked out because apparently the promoters did not tell the owner that the Harvard and Yale graduates and alumni in attendance that night would be black.”

He also stated that the patrons were initially told that the party was being shut down because of “technical difficulties,” but he later discovered that prior to the event, the owners had sent an e-mail to promoters and those who were invited, warning them that the black women who were in line outside of The Cure Lounge might attract “local gangbangers.”

Pressley said that she had heard about the incident via the Internet. “People were tweeting about it, and commenting on it in their Facebook posts, and it was disturbing to me,” she recalls.