A growing contingent of advocacy groups and cultural organizations are calling for the resignation of a Malden City Councilor after they say she failed to apologize for wearing a costume in 2019, when she was president of the council, that appeared to mock Asian women.
More than a dozen local groups have signed onto a statement from the NAACP’s Mystic Valley area branch that says Jadeane Sica, the representative for Malden’s eighth ward, “fell far short of the reflection and apology that Malden residents and the AAPI community deserve,” when she acknowledged the photo publicly on her Facebook page last week.
“We don’t want to come across as if... we’re going after every mistake or every misstep someone makes,” Zane Crute, president of the NAACP branch, said in a phone interview with the Globe. “It’s more of the lack of accountability. She’s refusing to say, ‘Hey I was wrong, I messed up, some people don’t like this and I want to do better.’ We feel like she’s failed to do that.”
The photo — which appears to show Sica dressed as an employee of Orchids of Asia, the Florida spa that became the focus of a prostitution case in 2019 involving Patriots owner Robert Kraft — garnered some backlash two years ago when it was allegedly posted to her Facebook page. It recently resurfaced, circulating in Facebook groups, leading some local organizations, including the NAACP, to call for her to apologize, said Crute.
“Looking back at the choice of costume through a more enlightened lens allows me to see now what I didn’t see then, which is that costumes that in any way portray another culture can be hurtful and in my case, send a message inconsistent with how I’ve lived my public and private life,” Sica wrote in her statement to Facebook on Nov. 17. “I can and will do better.”
In the photo, Sica wears an Asian conical hat and an Orchids of Asia shirt while holding a bottle of lotion. A man identified as her husband is apparently dressed as Kraft.
The costume was an apparent reference to the prostitution sting at Orchids in January 2019 that led to Kraft and 24 other men being charged with misdemeanor prostitution offenses for allegedly paying spa workers for sex. The charges were dropped against Kraft in September 2020.
Groups, including the Greater Malden Asian American Community Coalition, the Vietnamese American Initiative for Development, and the Asian Community Development Corporation, said Sica’s statement lacked an apology and caused further harm to the city’s Asian American and Pacific Islander community.
“In her statement, which only came after a coalition of community organizations asked Councilor Sica to apologize, Councilor Sica did not apologize; she excused her behavior by explaining, ‘I have love in my heart for people from all backgrounds, races, and religions,’” the NAACP’s statement says.
Malden, a city of just over 60,000 people, has a large Asian community that accounted for 22.5 percent of its total population in 2019, according to census data.
Sica did not return a request for comment, and has yet to publicly acknowledge the calls for her resignation.
In their initial statement calling for Sica to apologize, the advocacy groups said her costume mocked the challenges faced by the Asian workers at Orchids, some of whom have faced harsher legal consequences than Kraft and the other men who allegedly solicited prostitution. They also said the photo hypersexualized Asian women.
Sica acknowledged in her statement two weeks ago that she and her husband “made light” of the prostitution case involving Kraft, but said she has since learned that “women involved in cases like these are all too often vulnerable members of the Asian community who are victims of exploitation.”
One of the groups now calling for her resignation, the Greater Malden Asian American Community Coalition, said in a statement that some of its group members have received “violent” comments laced with racist language from people defending Sica.
“Her supporters have sent us messages in recent weeks with overtly racist and deeply offensive statements,” said Andrea So, president of the group’s board of directors. “Words that are very very offensive and are poking fun at AAPI culture.”
Both Crute and So said Sica has not reached out to them or their groups regarding the controversy.
As controversy over the costume emerged two weeks ago, several Malden city council members and the city’s State House delegation called for Sica to apologize.
Some of the members, including Sica, filed a resolution Thursday to be discussed at their meeting next week that would acknowledge the “detrimental impact that racism has on our residents and community” and create a new Racial Equity Commission that would examine the consequences of racism on public health.