Greetings Barry Carnahan,
My name is Aja King and I am a parent of two children who participated within the Diamonds National Tournament. You and I met Saturday, November 2nd, 2019. I wanted to personally share my experience with about your lack of commitment to provide quality customer service to me. The incident occurred when I was walking with my son and exploring the various vendors at the Diamonds Tournament. I noticed your massage chair several times as I strolled with my son. At the time, you were providing services to a woman while I patiently waited. I listened to your sales pitch as you described the services to your client’s husband (i.e. vertebrae, massage techniques, etc.). You and I made eye contact as I waited for the couple to finish their demonstration, and you smiled, which seemed welcoming. So that I would not hover over the woman’s relaxing experience, I briefly walked away to another vendor so the couple could complete their session. Once I noticed the couple had completed their session, I walked back to your vending table where I noticed that you were providing the couple with follow-up information for services. Once you completed your information session with the couple, I approached you to inquire about a massage demonstration for myself.
First, when you shook my hand, you barely touched me. I almost equated the lack of full handshake with me being a woman, but I noticed that you shook the hands of the previous customers fully and without hesitation.
Second, your sheet advertised 20-minute sessions, but you stated that they were truly 15-minutes. Nonetheless, once I inquired about the services you proceeded to tell me that you were going on a break so you may spar in the tournament. I became very concerned that you “suddenly” needed to take a break once I inquired about a massage. Also, there was another man at the table waiting for services from you as well.
Third, once I noticed that you possibly did not want to provide me services, you informed me that “maybe” I could return to the booth. You did not provide any extra information, number, or any means to follow-up with a massage.
Lastly, once I walked away from the booth, you proceeded to massage the man that was at the table, and this occurred during the period which you stated that you were taking a break. I again, walked away for 5-10 minutes, and noticed that you were talking to the woman that was sitting behind you at your vending booth. Ultimately, after telling me you were taking a break, you remained at your booth another 15-20 minutes. I am sure of this because I timed you and circled back to validate my concerns. In all, you managed to massage one more person and have a conversation
One part of this story that I have not mentioned which is very key to my concern, is that I am an African American woman who noticed you providing exceptional customer service to white patrons. I would define your lack of interest in my business as racism. Strong indicators of my experience were marked when you (1) did not want to touch my hand, (2) did not provide me services when I inquired, (3) did not give me ANY information to follow up for services, and (4) massaged someone after you let me leave. I later saw you on an elevator after the night’s events. While you did apologize for not being able to provide a massage, you also stated that “we owe you one.” Well, owing a potential customer should be followed by providing me information so I may seek your services. Several times I felt you intentionally did not try to keep me as a customer. I am a mental health professional who has been in the business of healing people for over 18 years. I am also an entrepreneur who knows that business depends on selling yourself to your potential client. I strongly experienced the EXACT opposite of what a business minded individual should do to gain a customer. Most importantly, Mr. Carnahan, it was noticeable that you preferred the business of white individuals versus the business with an African American. I do not want services from you because I do not believe they will be genuine. On the contrary, I do believe that this undermines the values and mission of the American Academy of Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine (AAAOM). My experience with you has reminded me that racism is not felt through microaggression, but rather, blatant behaviors that are just as demeaning and damaging. I hope that this letter serves as a reminder that providers are obligated to check their conscious and unconscious biases to remain vigilant in their craft. I do believe that you would benefit from ongoing clinical training concerning ways to remain open to multicultural backgrounds, and the ethical considerations as a medical provider. I thank you for your consideration, and I do hope that other minorities do not experience this level of mistreatment that you have perpetuated towards me.
Dr. Aja Dionna King, LPCC
Nobody and nothing belongs to us. We just visitors making an impact whether good, bad, or both. No matter what, just do your best to good, live big, and have few regrets.
As per usual, I was causually laughing and talking with my mom and sister on the phone when my mom begin to share one of her childhood memories. “Do you guys remember me talking about driving to Disneyland with my parents?”
Assuringly, we both reply, “Yeah, sure, what about it?”
“Well, do you remember me telling you about us traveling there, and my dad not letting me see the grand finale of Tinker Bell flying through the air?”
As my sister and I begin to cling with interest to our mother’s story she begin to entail the “unfinished business” of her childhood. For many of us, the are pieces of our childhood that never have an ending, or rather, there are gaps within our stories. Divorce, moving, death, being misplaced are events that create “unfinished business”, and thus, leaves a sense of yearning to better understand the “why’s” in our lives. For my mother, her father purposefully not allowing her to see the grand finale at Disneyland (Tinker Bell fly) was a significant act of “nope, there will be no happy ending to this story.” Nonetheless, my mom moved forward with her life: married/divorced, graduated with a Masters, raised two wonderful daughters, and skipped into the sunset with her boyfriend.
Mom, “So Evans [boyfriend] and I take his daughter to Disney World [Orlando] and we are standing watching the fireworks, when suddently Tinker Bell comes flying out! Aja, Kamaria, I….Lose….My….Mind! I’m screaming, yelling, ‘It’s Tinker Bell, it’s Tinker Bell’. Evans is looking at me, the man in front of me comments, ‘it’s amazing isn’t it’, and I’m like, ‘yeah’, and I begin to explain to these women around me how my father made me miss seeing Tinker Bell when I was 9-years-old, and I’m here, at 59-years-old finally experiencing that moment.”
To hear my mother share this experience was very poignant. Here is a woman that I have watched my entire life remain fierce, poised, resiliant, and courageous, share a part of her inner being that essentially was not resolved. This piece of my mother that had tucked itself away to overcome an intense level of disappointment that was promised by the first person that was suppose to keep her safe, her father. Yet, despite not having had the promise fulfilled, my mother carried on with life, without the proper preperation to fend from further disappointments by those closest to her. But that night, that night, without warning my mom’s wish came true…watching Tinker Bell end the magical night with her angelic wand.
My mother sounded more giddy and child-like then I have ever heard before. Her moment of innocent excitement made me excited and tearful to know that she too had wished upon a star as a child, and finally, it came true; 50 years later.
Take time to sit in your celebrations. Celebrate yourself, achievements, failures, gains and losses. There is so much to worry about as it is, so take time to reflect on where you have grown. Sit in the celebration of self.