A Black father says officials at a suburban Kansas City, Missouri, water park canceled his son’s birthday party reservation because of their race.
Chris Evans said he agreed to a contract of about $2,000 to host the party for up to 250 teenagers on Saturday at the Summit Waves Aquatic Facility in Lee’s Summit, Missouri, but when his sons arrived at the park, staff at the city-run complex told them the reservation was canceled. Evans said he and his wife were on their way to the park when they were told “this event doesn’t represent Lee’s Summit Waves and that my reservation was canceled because (a park official) was uncomfortable,” according to reports.
Video footage of the interaction between a park employee, accompanied by a police officer, and the family and group of partygoers was posted on TikTok.
“You canceled a kid’s birthday party. It’s a private party,” Evans told the park official as she shook her head in agreement.
“Because you’re not comfortable,” his wife, LeyShon Evans added.
“What are you uncomfortable with?” the father asked.
“’Cause we’re Black. ’Cause we’re Black. ’Cause we’re Black,” the person behind the camera said.
The park official on camera pointed to capacity issues, but she was drowned out by murmurs from the crowd. Lee’s Summit Parks and Recreation Department said that up to 500 people had shown up to the park for the party, and it had been advertised on social media, which went against the contract Evans signed. The department also said officials had not arranged additional security for the party as outlined in the contract. They claim they made several attempts to reach the family and decided to cancel the event after failing to make contact with them.
“Safety pertaining to the anticipated crowd size and the potential impact it might have on party guests and the staff was the sole reason for the cancellation,” the statement said.
Noah and Isaiah Evans are YouTubers with 60,000 followers, according to reports. The boys wanted to have the party to celebrate Isaiah’s 17th birthday, and it was a chance to have fun with friends before returning back to school. Isaiah posted a flyer advertising the event Splash Bash 2 on his Instagram page on July 12. The flyer notes that security would be “highly enforced.”
Their father, Chis Evans, said the event was canceled before the guests started arriving, and there was never “anything close to 500 kids in the parking lot.” The park was already sold out, so there were at least 600 people inside the park, he added. The family hired off-duty police officers or security officers for additional support as well.
“How did you count 500?” he asked during a press conference on Tuesday. “How did you distinguish the guests intermixing?”
According to the caption on the TikTok video, a lifeguard from the water park used racist slurs to describe the partygoers on Snapchat after the incident came to light.
Lee’s Summit Mayor William Baird denounced the lifeguard’s “appalling” comments on Tuesday and criticized the park’s decision to cancel the reservation. He said the parks department should “reevaluate its approach.”
Department officials said they have apologized to the Evans family for “the inappropriate and insensitive language” and taken measures to address the incident. The family received a full refund, and the department said it would review its rental process and revamp training to align with the city’s diversity and inclusion policy.
Chris Evans said he is concerned about the lasting effect the ordeal will have on his sons and their friends.
“These are boys with 3.8 GPAs, 4.0 GPAs, some going to the University of Missouri, star athletes at Lee’s Summit, Lee’s Summit West,” Chris Evans said.
The father also wants to ensure it doesn’t happen to any other Black people. Evans said the department needs to review its hiring and training practices. The father said the community in Lee’s Summit and Kansas City must unite to change things.
Evans also told reporters he wondered how his wife would feel with their sons leaving the house knowing there is “this much anger and frustration and you’re uncomfortable with us being there?” “My family has to be OK,” Evans said. “Other Black families have to be OK.”