‘I would not repeat that decision’: How a local educator addressed a decade-old blackface photo

Teacher Responds to Blackface Photo
Teacher Responds to Blackface Photo

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A local private school administrator recently responded to a 2011 photo that shows her in a costume with blackface makeup.

The photo, which was sent to News4Jax by multiple sources, depicts Crystal Lawrence Dow costumed for Halloween in 2011 as the popular comedic film character Mabel “Madea” Earlene Simmons from the multi-film franchise produced and starring Tyler Perry.

This 2011 photo shows Jacksonville educator Crystal Lawrence Dow dressed as a Black film character. (Copyright 2021 by WJXT News4Jax - All rights reserved.)

News4Jax reached out to the school to ask about the photo and Trinity Ministries’ Marketing and Communications Director Christopher Carr responded.

“We learned of this image when we were contacted by the news station,” Carr said. “As an organization, TCA recognizes these occurrences only help us continually learn and grow in racial awareness.”

In his response to News4Jax, Carr provided a prepared quote from Dow, who admitted that her understanding of the costume’s offensive nature has evolved since 2011.

“I am a big fan of Tyler Perry and the Madea movies and plays,” Carr quoted Dow as saying. “For Halloween, in 2011, I dressed up like the character out of affection. I would not repeat that decision today, understanding now how it could be offensive.”

Dr. Tammy Hodo is the founder and president of All Things Diverse and is an expert in racial relations, diversity, equity and inclusion.

“This is never appropriate,” Hodo said. “I do appreciate her apologizing, I recognize that it was a decade ago -- and now that she knows better. She can definitely do better and maybe engage in those types of conversations.”

MORE | How the History of Blackface Is Rooted in Racism

Hodo commended the school’s handling of the situation.

“I like that the school acknowledged it and it truly is a learning opportunity,” Hodo said. “We all make mistakes, but we have to actually grow from them -- and so, now the school can begin to have that dialogue and a larger context within the school about what’s appropriate and what’s not.”

Dow, who is also a volleyball coach at Trinity, spent the 2000s earning a Bachelor’s Degree from Liberty University and a law degree from the same institution. The next four years, Dow launched and ran the legal practice Dosio & Lawrence, according to her online resume.

In August 2010, about a year before the photo was taken, Dow began a seven-year stint as a secondary teacher at Trinity Christian Academy before moving to the school’s administrative staff in 2017 as the academy’s Development and Fundraising Coordinator.

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