Barkaa has alleged she and her family were racially profiled and followed by staff in a Kmart store in Sydney this week.
According to a statement shared on the rapper and Malyangapa/Barkindji woman’s Instagram profile, the alleged incident took place at 8pm on Wednesday (June 8) at the Stockland mall in the Western Sydney suburb of Merrylands. Barkaa claimed that as she was walking into the store with her family, she “was spotted by one of the women who worked there, who continued [staring] at us”.
Barkaa wrote that the woman then instructed two young men – only one of whom was in uniform – to join her as she followed the family through the store. The two were “snickering things under their [breath] and laughing” as they walked through the toy section, Barkaa claimed. The rapper said she then confronted the woman: “I asked her if she was ok? She then said ‘yes, just looking at this.’ I then said to her ‘I know you are following me, can you please stop, it’s rude.’”
Barkaa noted that she attempted to leave the store after that, but was continuously followed by the men, who only left her alone when she began to film them. She did so, she wrote, because the experience of being followed was “distressing and humiliating”. Upon checking out, Barkaa alleged that she and her family were “stopped by a young woman” who requested to check her bag.
“Three workers then came over and proceeded to pull the items I just bought out of the bag in front of others at the store,” Barkaa wrote, pointing out that she appeared to be the only customer being treated this way. She continued: “I said to them ‘I have no need to steal, I’m in here with my kids, I have more than enough to pay for these item,’ they then said it’s just what they had to do because it was their job.”
Have a look at Barkaa’s full statement below:
Barkaa implored the store’s management to “honestly please do better”, explaining that she spoke out about the incident because “so many [Blak people] are still being discriminated against and racially profiled, followed around in stores and targeted just for being who we are”. She went on to say that she “felt humiliated and ashamed” over the incident, and “felt like crying” when she was finally able to leave the store.
“Instead I had to walk off and explain to my kids what just happened,” she said, “and comfort my eldest daughter when she said to me ‘we just wanted to go shopping, we always go there.’”
“I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired,” Barkaa wrote in closing.
In an update to her Instagram Story, shared yesterday (June 9), Barkaa posted that she’d been contacted by Kmart via Facebook, and would “be in contact with myself and my management to discuss a solution and to have a conversation around this”. She noted that she was “still very upset about the whole situation”.
In a statement shared with NME, a spokesperson for Kmart said: “We are aware of Barkaa’s experience in our store and we are investigating internally and taking it extremely seriously. We have been in contact with Barkaa and are speaking with her to understand more about her experience.
“We want all our customers to have a great experience every time they are in one of our stores and we understand we have not delivered on this experience this time around.”
Barkaa’s latest release was her Electric Fields collaboration ‘Fight For Me’ in March. It followed her debut EP, ‘Blak Matriarchy’, which she released last December via Briggs’ Bad Apples imprint and sported lead single ‘King Brown’.
Later this month, Baarka will perform alongside the likes of Kobie Dee, Tasman Keith and JK-47 at the 4ESydney festival. It’s set to take place on Saturday June 25 at the Leo Kelly Blacktown Arts Centre, and will be free to attend.