Peter Osazuwa had received extra doughnuts last week as an apology for an incorrect order from Dunkin’ Donuts, so the 14-year-old went to the center of Newburyport to share the treats with some friends.
But they had leftovers, and Peter offered one to a stranger on the street, his mother said. The passerby, a white man, flew into a tirade against the Black teenager, bombarding him with racial slurs.
“He was asking him, ‘Do you want a doughnut?‘ and he went off,” Adama Barry, the teenager’s mother, said in an interview Tuesday. “The guy started yelling, using the n-word on him.”
As the man yelled at Peter and two of his friends, bystanders approached and attempted to intervene. But the man continued shouting, according to Barry and video of the episode, which Barry provided to the Globe.
Just before the man drove off in a Lexus sedan, someone asked him, “What did you call him?” the video shows. The man shouted the n-word through his sunroof and drove away.
The experience left Peter deeply shaken, said Barry, 45. She was not with her son at the time, but said he described it to her in detail.
“I’m very upset, and I’m scared, especially with everything that’s happening right now, all over,” Barry said in a phone interview. “I’m scared for my life, I’m scared for my boy’s life. I was so angry. Oh my God, I was so upset. But what can you do? You just have to live.”
Newburyport police are investigating the incident.
“Mayor Donna Holaday was deeply concerned to learn this incident recently occurred in Newburyport. The city does not tolerate acts of racism or bias in our community or the accosting of our youth,” Matthew Coogan, the mayor’s chief of staff, wrote in an e-mail Tuesday.
Coogan added that Holaday supports the “immediate decision” by City Marshal Mark Murray, Newburyport’s top police official, “to conduct a full investigation of the incident.”
Barry was outraged by the man’s verbal attack on her son.
“I think that the guy’s a racist. That’s all, because if somebody offers you free food, even though you don’t want it, you say ‘Thank you,‘ ” said Barry, who is a single parent to Peter, his twin brother, and a 17-year-old daughter.
“Things need to change. This is 2020,” she added.
When Peter told her what happened, Barry told him, “We have to show love, no matter what,” she said.
“I told him, next time that somebody calls him the n-word or any kind of word, he should just tell the person, ‘I love you,’ and walk away … We cannot hate. I’m doing my best to raise them to be good men,” she said of her sons.
But it pained her to hear Peter’s story and see video of what he went through.
“Seeing the white man in daylight in downtown Newburyport … calling him the n-word, not even once — so many times,” she said. “I was so upset for two days. I was crying. … Things happen to you as parents, you can take it, but when you see your kids suffering, it’s different. It hurts you to the core.”
Barry said she has strong faith in God, and she prays even for the man who was hateful to her son.
“I’m praying for him to repent,” she said.
Barry, who immigrated to the United States from the West African nation of Guinea, said her children were born in the United States and have lived in Newburyport since 2008, experiencing little overt racism.
“So many people know them,” she said of her children. “They play basketball, they play football. We’re all well-known. We have a good community.”
But in the past year, she said, her children’s experiences have become different.
“This is the second time my kids were called the n-word. They were told to go back where they came from” by a neighbor in their subsidized housing development, Barry said. “My kids were like, ‘What do they mean? This is where we’re from.’ They don’t know anywhere else. … I’m originally from Africa, but they’ve never been to Africa.”
Barry reported the harassment to the management of the development, and the neighbor was moved to a different building, she said.
Though her family has had deeply negative experiences, Barry said Newburyport was welcoming when her family moved there, and she has been reassured by the many messages of support she has received in recent days.
“There are people in Newburyport that cannot believe that this kind of racism is going on in Newburyport, and I tell them that it happens in so many cases,” she said. “But the community, so many of them are good to us.”
Barry said one of the bystanders who intervened Thursday has contacted her through Facebook.
“Tomorrow we’re going to meet up in downtown for coffee,” Barry said. “Just for me to be grateful.”
Steve Annear of the Globe staff contributed to this report.
Jeremy C. Fox can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @jeremycfox.