FARMINGTON – A natural health store in Farmington has received community backlash in person and on social media after posting an anti-Black Lives Matter and Antifa sign, asking supporters of those groups to shop somewhere else.
Wildly Natural Foods posted a sign earlier this week that said, “If you support ANTIFA and/or BLM please shop elsewhere.” When Sam Bibo, a resident of Durango for the last eight years, saw the sign posted on Facebook, she asked family friends who live in Farmington to visit the store to see if it was true.
“First thing I wanted to do was make sure it was accurate,” said Bibo, who previously lived in Farmington while attending San Juan College and had shopped at the store. Antifa is a collection of autonomous political protest groups affiliated by their militant opposition to fascism.
The sign was still there with the addition of, “All lives matter to us.”
Bibo, who has previously worked in health food stores, said it was a surprising perspective for someone in that community to take and did not align with helping people. She said with a lot of the Black Lives Matter protests occurring in larger cities, she often feels removed from what’s happening, but this seemed like something she could advocate for.
“I don’t have a lot of power to protest and push against discrimination, but this was close enough to make somewhat of a difference,” she said. “It was something that needed to be spoken out about.”
She said she reached out to the store a couple of times to find out the management’s reasoning for the sign but was either hung up on or did not receive a response.
Wildly Natural Foods management declined to comment for this story.
“I would rather see the community come together against them, instead of letting it pass by,” Bibo said.
As the image spread on social media, the store received a flood of negative reviews on Yelp. Some of the comments appeared to be from out-of-state users, resulting in the website disabling the ability to post reviews.
“This business recently gained public attention resulting in people posting their views to this page,” Yelp stated on the grocery store’s site. “While racism has no place on Yelp and we unequivocally reject racism in any form, all reviews on Yelp must reflect an actual firsthand consumer experience (even if that means disabling the ability for users to express points of view we might agree with).”
Clarissa Eldridge, a Farmington resident, said she was not entirely surprised when she saw the sign circulating online.
“I’m half Navajo and half Black,” she said. “It was very tough for us growing up here in Farmington. We’d all get the stares and the comments.”
Eldridge, 38, said her and her husband had their first and last experience at the store a few months ago. She said while looking for honeycomb for their children, they were followed by employees of the store.
“We felt really uncomfortable, they were following us in every aisle,” she said. “It was the last time going in there.”
She said seeing the post on social media was “a light bulb moment” and her discomfort with her first visit made sense. She said experiencing that type of racism is something she’s almost become accustomed to.
“Unfortunately, it’s very Farmington,” she said. “This place is soaked in a lot of racist roots. (The owners) felt bold enough to put that sign up amid everything happening.”
Eldridge said there was a recent incident where her husband and 13-year-old son went to the park to play basketball but were heckled and called racist slurs by a group of teenagers.
“The racial tension here against Navajo and against Black people is already there, and for a business to stir that up ... Why do they feel so comfortable? Why do they feel so bold that they’re creating more of that tension, more of that hostile environment?” she said.
Eldridge, who attended a Black Lives Matter rally held earlier this month in front of Animas Valley Mall, said it’s been a 50/50 split in noticing an increase in racist attitudes and an increase in vocal support for people of color from the community. She said she was surprised at the positive turnout at the rally.
“It honestly made me and my husband cry. That much support that I didn’t even know was there,” she said. “I never thought I would see a sign that says Black Lives Matter here in Farmington.”
Eldridge said racism has affected herself, her father and her family and is very real in the area, including in Durango. She said she and her husband have considered moving when their youngest child graduates high school.
“I hope it brings some change,” she said. “I hope Farmington faces its ugly roots. No one should be forced to leave their hometown.”