On Wednesday night, an employee at Good Nature Market on Broadway denied entry to four Black men stating that the store was closed, but then allowed several white people to enter afterward. After videos of the incident hit Instagram on Thursday, the employee was fired, according to a Yale statement.
This incident comes amid ongoing rallies protesting police brutality and systemic racism against Black people following the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police. Yale students were made aware of the incident as screenshots of Terence Johnson’s Instagram post circulated on social media on Thursday afternoon. The videos show an Asian employee telling him and three other friends that the store was closed. According to one of the four men, Wilby Martin, Jr., a white man gained entry to the store about 15 minutes later, but decided not to buy anything after learning that the employee had denied entry to the four men. In eight videos accompanying Johnson’s post, three of the men can be heard asking why they were not allowed into the store, to which the employee responded that his boss told him to not take any customers aside from a handful of customers that come every night. The market is usually open 24 hours a day.
The videos also capture Yale Police Department squad cars rolling up to the scene, and the four men relaying to officers what they experienced. According to Martin, a white woman gained entry to the store after the employee in question let her in later in the night. After also deciding not to purchase anything, she went to get security as the men asked the employee why they were being denied service, Martin said. The final video captures a different white woman walking into the store after police had arrived at the scene.
“For me and my friends, it’s heartbreaking,” said Martin, who works for the Ansonia Public Works Department. “I have more questions for that establishment. The way they treated me and my friends is no good, not in this society, not in 2020, not in New Haven. To be treated like that, it’s absurd…What did we do wrong?”
Martin said he is not looking to take legal action at this time, but he does want to sit down with the owner of the business. He also confirmed that the NAACP had contacted him about the incident.
“Today Yale University was made aware of an incident that occurred last night at Good Nature Market, an independently owned and operated tenant of the Shops at Yale,” University spokesperson Karen Peart said in an email to the News. “Yale Police arrived at the scene and learned that a group of Black men, one of whom is a Yale student, had been denied entry to the store, while white customers gained entry. Yale stands by the men who experienced this discrimination and is grateful for the dignity they showed in a very trying circumstance.”
The Shops at Yale Instagram account posted a similar message in the comments of the post and on its own Instagram page, which said that the “situation was handled gracefully by the group and the YPD.”
According to Peart, the store’s ownership informed Yale that it regrets the actions of its employee and apologizes for the incident. The ownership also said it will immediately implement an anti-discrimination training program for all employees at both of its locations. Another employee confirmed by phone that the store would be closed for an extended period of time.
“We are committed to earning your trust. Now is a time for unity and we will do all we can to foster it. Please understand that we care,” read an apology issued by Good Nature Market management on Friday. The statement also offered an apology to the men as well as the “entire New Haven community.”
Martin said that the four men had a “good conversation” with the police and that the officers expressed surprise at the behavior of the employee. He said that only the Yale Police Department was on the scene.
The YPD and the New Haven Police Department could not be immediately reached for comment.
As of publication, the original Instagram post had garnered more than 2,000 likes and more than 300 comments.
The market’s closure is related to a number of health violations that the city’s COVID-19 task force found when they inspected both Good Nature locations, according to reporting from the New Haven Independent. City health director Maritza Bond told the Independent that inspectors found live mice and roaches, expired food and food kept at hazardous temperatures. In addition, building inspectors found numerous electrical and plumbing violations like illegal gas hooks, a lawn hose in the kitchen and a “rat’s nest” of wiring.
According to a comment on the original Instagram post, Snackpass has suspended Good Nature Market from the platform indefinitely.
Good Nature Market general manager Tae Park commented on the post and claimed that “other employees are not racist” and that “good nature will stand with you guys.”
The owner, Sun Yup Kim, and the employee involved in the incident could not be reached for comment. Another GHeav employee, James Park, told the News that the employee in question had been terminated but declined to give his name.
“This is one, sad, two, disappointing and three, not unexpected,” said Yale Black Men’s Union President Jaelen King ’22. “This is another incident in a long line of Black people being racially profiled. This is a frustrating situation and that was my first reaction. I am just tired of this continuous crap.”
The BMU has yet to publicly respond to the incident, but likely will, according to King.
“If the story is true, it’s offensive and doesn’t reflect the values of our city, and I will be calling the ownership of Good Nature tomorrow as well to discuss this,” said Mayor Justin Elicker.
Ward 1 Alder Eli Sabin ’22 originally referred to the incident as “terrible,” and later sent an updated statement calling the event “abhorrent and disgusting.” While the store sits within Ward 22, Sabin told the News he is discussing with Ward 22 Alder Jeanette Morrison “whether other actions” besides the firing and training “need to be taken.”
The Korean American Society at Yale and The Black Student Alliance at Yale are collaborating on a statement and actionables as well as collecting stories about past racist incidents at GHeav, according to KASY member Jieun Yu ’22 and BSAY Co-President Eden Senay ’22. KASY is involved because it wants to hold the store’s Korean American ownership accountable, Yu explained.
Good Nature Market has locations at 15 Broadway and 44 Whitney Ave.
Mackenzie Hawkins contributed reporting.
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Thursday, June 4, 11:40 p.m.: This article has been updated to include information about the results of Good Nature’s health inspection and information about the store’s suspension from Snackpass.
Friday, June 5, 2:45 p.m.: This article has been updated to include comments and details from one of the men involved with the incident and to clarify the timeline of events as well as the number of people involved.
Friday, June 5, 3:50 p.m.: This article has been updated to include a quote from Good Nature’s apology note.