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Saturday, January 13, 2018

Former Plainfielders endure 'shopping while Black' incident in New Hampshire

(l. to r.) Kevin, Mark, Sam and Steven with their dog
Sebastian and a family friend in 2009 (from Facebook)


Many Plainfield Today readers will remember Mark Newton and Sam Delgado who, with their adopted sons Kevin and Steven, lived at 990 Central Avenue. They were active in the Van Wyck Brooks Historic District and were renowned for their parties. Mark's work eventually took the family to New Hampshire, from which the following story comes, by way of the website (view it online here) --

‘Such a shock’: 2 Black Teens Accused of ‘Casing’ NH Jewelry Store by Owner, Family Says

Written by Avalon Lustick on
CONCORD — A Hopkinton family's annual downtown window shopping trip turned into a reality-check about race.

On the afternoon of Dec. 26, in what has become a tradition, Mark Newton along with his brother Thom Newton and Mark's two sons — 15-year-old Kevin Newton-Delgado and 14-year-old Steven Newtown-Delgado — took a trip to downtown Concord.
The family stopped in Speer's Fine Jewelry at 24 North Main St. to browse the merchandise.

As Thom Newton asked a salesperson about watches, Mark Newton and his two adopted African-American sons looked at the merchandise. The trio talked about rings they could get significant others one day or watches they could buy when they were older. During their discussion, Kevin listened to music on his phone and Steven used the Snapchat app. 
After 15 minutes, the group said their goodbyes to the salespeople and left to visit other stores.

Little did they know that their tradition would be spoiled.

When the group left The League of NH Craftsmen at 36 North Main St. about 15-20 minutes later, Joe Speer, the owner of Speer's Fine Jewelry, confronted the teens, Mark Newton said.

Speer approached Kevin and Steven and accused them of "casing" his store while pointing his finger and making contact with Kevin's chest, the family said.

At first, the father and uncle thought the confrontation was a joke but soon realized that Speer's robbery accusation was serious.

"It was such a shock," said Mark Newton, who said he runs in similar social circles with the shop owner. "We have been regular customers for the last several years."

Speer returned to his store after the accusation, the family said.

Eventually, Mark and Thom returned to Speer's to ask why he had confronted the teens.

"That was the most insulting thing I have ever heard in my life," Mark Newton recalled saying to Speer at the time. "That was blatantly racist."

Mark and Thom said Speer told them the store goes through a lot for security. They said Speer's wife then joined the conversation, saying, "We don't see color."
Steven said that the family's relationship with Speer was "gradual and friendly."

The family said they did not see any signs prohibiting cellphone use or photography within the store.
Speer refused multiple requests to speak to NH1 for this story.

Afterward, Mark and Thom posted to Facebook about their experience. Mark's post has been shared almost 200 times and generated hundreds of comments.
Sam Newton-Delgado, Mark's partner, said he reached out Mayor Jim Bouley about the incident, and that Bouley called the family and discussed his high expectations of the citizens of Concord.

Both teens are active members of their school communities. They play basketball for Hopkinton Middle School and High School. Kevin has volunteered with children and Steven also plays lacrosse, indoor and outdoor soccer, and is a member of the chorus.

Kevin and Steven said the confrontation confused them because from their perspective, they did not do anything wrong but still ended up apologizing. 
"I thought he could have handled it differently," Steven said. "I thought he handled it immaturely."

Steven said this isn't the first time the boys have experienced discrimination because of their skin color but that this is one of the more public displays.
Mark Newton said he had not witnessed other incidents but hopes others learn from their experience and think before acting.

"We want people to know this is not acceptable," he said.

  -- Dan Damon [follow]

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