MFA steps up on the Watermelon incident in a letter that ain’t no clickbait.


The Boston Museum of Fine Arts (MFA) is located a softball throw away from the border of the Roxbury Cultural District / Lower Roxbury Historic District ( view map ). Fact: “Today, Roxbury is the heart of Black culture in Boston,” exclaims Boston.Gov, the website of the Boston City Hall government administration.

Recently, in case you didn’t know, young Black and brown student museum visitors from a school in Dorchester, a zip coded part of Black Boston, left in tears after they were subjected to racial profiling reported the Washington Post newspaper in (

Today we learned the MFA has a totally appropriate artwork piece in collections about the watermelon, a plant species originating in West Africa. ref: collections/object/watermelon-33164

Now on GOOGLE if you enter in quotes “mfa and watermelon” you get search engine results pages filling Page One and Page Two; we stopped looking at page two, of articles about another racism incident in Boston and this time it happened at the MFA. But if you enter “watermelon mfa” without the “and, “Google list the MFA page about the painting “Watermelon, about 1855 by an unidentified artist, American, mid 19th century,” in position #1, followed by more newspaper racism story reporting.

not their clickbait, but

The kids from the Helen J. Davis School unintentionally hacked Google for better or for worse!
They should feel good about speaking up and pushing back because it is very hard to out Google Google when a fresh IRL (in real life ) incident occurs, and you want the world to know about it via a #1 Google SERP within a day.

Although the rankings were unintentional, it is instructional to the YouTube social media generation who strives for online relevancy overnight. Lil Nas X pulled it off the same way for his hit Billboard charted song “Old Town Road,” but that’s a story for another day.

5/28 Here’s a copy of the Museum of Fine Arts RESPONSE. received it in an email sent by the MFA to the general public.

“Dear MFA Community,

I want to update you on our efforts to address the events of the past week and to affirm that there is work ongoing and work we need to do. All of us are committed to making everyone feel welcome at the MFA. This work includes, but is not limited to, actions we have already taken: a Strategic Plan that encourages us to be an outward-facing institution; the creation of the position of Chief of Learning and Community Engagement; unconscious bias training for staff and board; continuous review of our visitor welcome at our entrances; round tables with teachers and students to address Opportunities for Inclusion and Racial Diversity; and working with our community to represent their voices in exhibitions and programs. We are addressing at every level and with every tool we have.

Please review a more detailed statement here.

Our community ( The MFA) is a strong one, and one that needs to dedicate ourselves to doing better, both reaching out and looking within. This is not something simply remedied—though immediate concerns must and will be addressed—but we are dedicated to the MFA and to the people of Boston.

Matthew Teitelbaum
Ann and Graham Gund Director”