A councilman-elect in a tiny Gloucester County town is apologizing for wearing a blackface Flava Flav Halloween costume in 2008 and sharing a photo of it on social media.
"I apologize to anyone who may be hurt by my costume choice of years ago," Republican Vincent Kelly said in a statement released Saturday by the Gloucester County Republican Executive Committee.
Kelly won election to the borough council in Pitman, New Jersey, in Tuesday's election.
In his apology, Kelly is acknowledging a photo shared on social media and by different groups that shows him dressed as the reality show star and Public Enemy rapper Flava Flav standing next to a woman.
Here is Kelly's full statement and apology:
"In 2008 I purchased and wore a Flavor Flav costume to a Halloween party where guests were expected to dress as a celebrity. At the time Flavor Flav’s yelling of ‘yeah boy’ made him incredibly popular, wearing the costume was a celebration of his fame.
"Years later I briefly used the picture as a cover photo on my Facebook page during the Halloween season, changed the picture after the season and frankly forgot about it until recent events.
"I do understand that we live in a very different time and today, even as a celebration of one’s fame, I would not even consider wearing a costume that included blackface. I apologize to anyone who may be hurt by my costume choice of years ago and will soon reach out to the Pitman Anti-Racist Collective so we can hopefully schedule a meeting and have some open, honest dialogue."
The Pitman Anti-Racist Collective (PARC) praised Kelly for admitting his fault.
"PARC is relieved that Councilman-elect Kelly has apologized and acknowledged the gravity of appearing in blackface, reversing the statement he made one day prior," said the group, which has a mission to "challenge racism in our community, and to work for change through anti-racist policy creation, education, and culture shift."
In a Friday morning Courier-Post story, Kelly had defended his costume and said "I’ve not a racist bone in my body."
"I didn’t put blackface on," Kelly told the Courier-Post. "I went to a costume party. And it came … with it. This is what you got with it. That’s what I did. There was no intention to do blackface, or to belittle African Americans, or anything like that. It was a simple Halloween party."
Kelly's Facebook page was down as of Saturday night. PARC claimed it was still active and the photo was still available as of Thursday. The group in a Facebook post Saturday said it had no intention to "cancel" Kelly, but rather wanted "educate him on the egregious practice of appearing in blackface."
Pitman has a population of less than 9,000, according to the most recent U.S. census data.
Kelly and fellow Republican Courtney Susan Milward defeated Democratic Council President Paul Blass and Democratic Councilwoman Amy Rudley in Tuesday's election.
Kelly will take his seat on council next year.