The victim of a vandalism incident in North Adams, which she and others say was racially motivated, says it’s not the first time she and her family have experienced such abuse.
Lakiya Moore lives on Brayton Hill Terrace in Northern Berkshire County’s largest community. She says the latest event began Tuesday night with a party next door.
“The reason why I went to bed early is because they were saying a lot of racial slurs like the n-word, n-word, n-word, so I felt as though they were trying to start with me," Moore told WAMC. "So I just gathered my kids and went in the house and went to bed.”
She heard a noise in the night when waking up to fix a bottle for her one-year-old, but wrote it off as just her neighbors fighting.
“When I woke up around 7 o’clock that Wednesday morning, I was filling out a form to take to my friend to go to the food pantry for me because I don’t have a babysitter so I can’t just go to the food pantry, so she does it for me," explained Moore. "So I filled out the form and brought it to her, and when I was coming back from her house, that’s when I realized that there was poop smeared on my door. There was a pile on the ground near my door, it was in my AC.”
In her own words, Moore freaked out.
“I’m like, are you F’ing kidding me," she said. "Like, are you serious? I was just really, like… I was just raged, I was shocked, I was mad, I was upset, I was feeling so many types of emotions.”
Moore, who is African American, called North Adams Police, who sent out an officer to her home.
“I actually asked him, was this a hate crime? And he actually told me no, it’s just unsanitary. And he was like, well, I can’t do anything until I go see the video, hopefully I can identify that person and then we’ll take it from there,” she told WAMC.
Moore says she then saw the officer and the property owner go to her neighbors after seeing the video and demand the names of everyone who had been at the party.
North Adams Police issued a statement along with the Berkshire District Attorney saying the incident was under investigation, and that they were working with Brayton Hill’s property manager, Millenia Housing Management.
While Chief Jason Wood told the Berkshire Eagle on Wednesday that “nothing points to a ‘hate crime’ at the moment,” the release referred to “investigating possible racist motivations.”
For her part, Moore has no doubt that there was a racial dimension to the vandalism.
“They was outside saying the n-word, n-word, n-word, and I felt like it was coming towards me because I was the only person outside,” said the North Adams resident.
Moore says it’s not the first time she and her family have faced discrimination. She says her 11-year-old son, who participates in North Adams youth football, was attacked when he went to talk to members of Adams’ team after a game.
“He didn’t know who won, so he went on to the other team and asked one of the boys there who won the game and they told him ‘F*** you, n*****, get away from me.’ And then they jumped my son,” said Moore.
Moore said when she confronted other parents after the incident, her son’s account was brushed aside and a parent threatened to call the police on her if she didn’t calm down.
“And I’m like, well I don’t need to calm down because I’m really angry that you guys got here and attacked my son and then you guys are yelling at me because you guys are in the wrong,” she said.
Moore called the commissioner of the youth football league and was given the following answer.
“The only thing that they could do was call a meeting. It was up to the parents in North Adams if they wanted to show up," she told WAMC. "So either way, even if I did go to the meeting, the parents had a choice if they wanted to come or not, so I just left it alone.”
Moore has five children and is originally from Boston. She moved to North Adams from Greenfield in 2017, and has been in her house on Brayton Hill Terrace since last March.
“I really don’t want to be here," Moore told WAMC. "I don’t. Like, with that incident, with my son, yeah, I brushed it under the rug even though it wasn’t right, and I just went on and just kept trying to live my life with my kids out here, and it’s just like, it just keeps coming and coming and coming. Now that this incident happened, you know what I mean, it just don’t feel the same to me anymore. I just don’t feel safe here.”
After the news and photos of the vandalism spread, a community fundraising effort has so far collected around $3,000 to help Moore and her family move.
North Adams Mayor Tom Bernard told WAMC that he felt unequipped to weigh in on what specifically defines a hate crime, but said it was clear that racism was apparent.
“For a person of color to feel targeted, to feel that there is a climate out there in North Adams – or as we’re seeing, it’s all over the country – is something we have to pay attention to,” said Bernard.
He called for a community dialogue around race in the aftermath of the vandalism.
Gwendolyn VanSant, the CEO and co-founder of Multicultural BRIDGE – Berkshire Resources for Integration of Diverse Groups through Education – says she’s comfortable calling the event a hate crime.
“What I understand and how I’ve been trained is that the crime part of it is that the crime part of it is that they have to have broken the law, and the hate is a biased motivated incident, and I think it hits these two marks,” VanSant told WAMC.
She says the group’s race taskforce has connected with the Department of Justice to lodge an official report for an investigation.
VanSant says that what happened this week to Moore is indicative of the larger experience of people of color in the area, citing a recent meeting BRIDGE held in Northern Berkshire County.
“We had about 30 people show up and share their concerns, their family experiences around race, and so we have a commitment to go up every other month and have a conversation, and the next one’s in late August," said the CEO and co-founder. "And so definitely, there are people that live in fear, there are people that feel isolated, and looking for resources and support.”