A US-born musician who has lived in England for more than eight years says he has never experienced racism this side of the Atlantic – until he came to York.
Jaeh Daycon, a singer-songwriter, DJ and producer, came to York for a night out with friends earlier this month.
But what started as a positive introduction to the city turned sour when he claimed a member of staff in The Botanist bar on Stonegate discriminated against him.
The manager of the bar said they are taking the situation very seriously and he was investigating the complaint personally.
‘The people are proper’
Jaeh, who is originally from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania’s largest city, now lives in Harrogate.
He was invited for an evening in York by a friend who lives here. “What led me to York is that, for the longest time people have said you need to go to York – the music scene in York is proper, the people are proper,” he said.
“I was there to have a good time, to scan out a few places where I could potentially perform, and meet people and hang out.”
In the first bar they visited on Friday, March 17, “we were received really well.
“These two gentlemen were sitting in the front with their guitar and microphones, and they were blowing. I was like, ‘If this is what York is about I am all about it!’”
‘You’ve discriminated against me’
His friend told him he would love the ambience and people at the Botanist.
“I walked in – everything was cool. The guy opened up the door for us,” Jaeh told YorkMix.
“I did notice I was the only black person in there. But when I got in people smiled at me, and I was smiling through the whole thing.
“I was focused on the piano player – because the piano player was working it out.”
Then he claims the security guy brushed into him, stood by the door, and was giving him a ‘piercing’ stare.
He sent over another person to ask Jaeh to take off his hat. Jaeh told him, “I’m not with that. I just want to have my drink.”
Jaeh went over to the security man at the door and asked him why he was being asked to remove his hat. He was told it was the policy of the bar.
But, Jaeh says, standing next to them was a white man with a hat on.
I said to him, ‘Did he ask you to take your hat off?’ He looked at me with a screwed up, confused face and said, ‘no’.
I was like, ‘you’ve just discriminated against me, we’re out of here’.
He said he was freaked out by what happened.
“I was dressed for the snow. I wasn’t dressed particularly extra thuggish. I had a freakin’ bowler on, for heaven’s sakes. You don’t see a lot of thugs wearing bowlers!”
Not counted York out
He described what happened as “blatant racism”.
“I expect this to happen in Philly, I expect this to happen in Baltimore, I expect this to happen in South Carolina, North Carolina, Kentucky, Alabama – I don’t expect this to happen in York, North Yorkshire.
“I live in Harrogate. I’m a black dude with dreadlocks in Harrogate. You would think I’d have the most racism right here.
I have not counted York out. I will come back to York to hang out, especially now I have a few friends there
“I’m not saying that I don’t get looks, but everybody that approaches me treats me with respect.”
He didn’t hang around long after the incident. “I left York that night. I dropped my friend off. This was a first outing for us, she was really excited to show me these different places – and it just ruined my night.
“However, I’m optimistic that all of York is not like that.”
That feeling was confirmed when he had many messages of support from York people after posting his experience on Facebook.
“My point in going to York was to try to find some really cool people to vibe with – and to maybe add to the social scene of the arts. Just to bring a little Philadelphia soul to York.
“I have not counted York out. I will come back to York to hang out, especially now I have a few friends there.”
Flip the script
The bar has launched a full probe into what happened.
General manager at The Botanist York, Richard Pearson, said:
We are very saddened to hear of this situation and I can assure the guest and the local community that I am personally investigating this until we all feel it is resolved.
We are taking this very seriously and we do not want anyone who visits The Botanist to have a bad experience.
We consider ourselves as being part of the community and a place where families and friends can come to enjoy themselves and we will continue to work hard to keep that reputation.
Jaeh said that representatives from the Botanist had reached out to him.
“I’m probably going to go and have a conversation and give them the chance to say what they want to say.
“They’ve been very forthcoming and apologetic on text and email and they want to speak to me and see me.”
He hopes something good will come out of his bad experience in York: “I’m hoping this will turn into something amazingly positive.
“It could create an opportunity for me to raise awareness of tolerance, or musically do something that would bring positivity and togetherness and good karma.
“Take this and flip the script!”