On June 25, Deval Brockman was at work when she received a call from the director of her daughter’s daycare. The director said 6-year-old Journei’s T-shirt was a problem and she could no longer wear it to daycare. Brockman felt surprised: It wasn’t the first time Journei wore the shirt that said, “All Lives Can’t Matter until Black Lives Matter.”
“I never thought twice about the shirt being a problem,” Brockman, 31, of Russellville, Arkansas, told TODAY Parents. “The director was like, ‘I don’t support it. I don’t like it. I want to make sure you do not send her to school in the shirt again.’”
While the director of His Kids Learning Center in Russellville, Arkansas said that Brockman didn’t have to come to change Journei’s shirt immediately, Brockman took her daughter a new shirt. Journei worried that she did something bad.
“She was upset and confused,” Brockman said.
Later, Brockman called the state to see if her daughter could wear shirts that support Black Lives Matter. The state employee told her the shirt didn’t contain profanities so it was fine. The next day, Friday, Journei wore a shirt that said, “I can’t breathe.” The director of the daycare started calling and texting Brockman, who works as a phlebotomist at a plasma center, repeatedly that afternoon. Brockman had to get her daughter. When she arrived, the director and her husband scolded Brockman.
“Her husband is having a conversation with me now where he calls me racist. He told me I’m teaching my child to be racist, and tells me I need to re-evaluate my parenting,” she said.
The daycare said that Journei could never return.
“They were just like, ‘We can’t have her here because it’s just making white kids question their lives and that’s just not something I want to deal with or have that divide in my daycare,’” Brockman recalled.
Journei doesn’t comprehend what happened.
“My child is upset and she couldn't even really understand why she can't go back,” Brockman said. “All of a sudden her environment changed. She can’t see the teacher she liked. She can’t see her friends.”
TODAY Parents reached out to the daycare but no one responded. The daycare shared a statement with Fox16 in Little Rock.
“Due to the threat of allegations and under the advisement of the council, His Kids Learning Center will only be releasing this written statement concerning The Brockman’s: We feel a childcare environment is not a place for a parent’s political views to be addressed or played out, regardless of race."
Black Lives Matter is not considered political but is a human rights movement working toward “freedom and justice for Black people and, by extension, all people,” according to its mission statement. The movement also strives to make its “spaces family-friendly and enable parents to fully participate with their children."
Brockman agrees that the shirts aren’t political. Rather, she believes they speak to the experiences that Black people face.
“Kids need to know that their skin color already is going to work against them to a certain degree in people’s eyes. So, they need to know and be prepared and be able to learn and know that they may not have done anything but they’re going to be treated very differently,” she said. “Hopefully, someday it will change.”