Why even have a mascot?
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A Portland school is having an identity crisis. It changed its name from Woodrow Wilson High School to Ida B. Wells High School. (Excellent choice because why anyone would want to commemorate Wilson boggles my mind!)
It also voted to change the Trojan mascot. Evergreens topped the list of new mascots, but now some have concerns it has connections to lynching.
From Portland Tribune:
“Evergreens are characterized by the life-giving force of their foliage, the strength of their massive trunk, and the depth of their roots—in an individual tree and as a forest of trees,” Ellen Whatmore, a teacher and mascot committee member at Wells-Barnett High School said, reading from a resolution. “They provide shelter and sustenance. They have histories that preclude us and will continue in perpetuity after we are no more.”
But just before the Portland Public Schools Board of Education’s vote to approve the new mascot Tuesday, March 30, Director Michelle DePass shared community concerns of an unwanted correlation between Ida B. Wells—the historic Black activist, and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who documented and crusaded against lynching—and a tree which could conjure up reminders of hanging people with ropes from branches.
“I’m wondering if there was any concern with the imagery there, in using a tree … as our mascot?” DePass asked the renaming and mascot committee. “I think everyone comes with blind spots and I think that might’ve been a really big blind spot.”
Wells, one of the most famous black women in history, fought to end lynching. She exposed the lies that whites only lynched black criminals.
Martin Osborne sits on the committee to choose a new mascot. He is the only black member.
Osborne confirmed they talked about trees and lynching. However, the members “were looking at the symbolism more as a tree of life, than a tree of death.” He continued:
Osborne said the committee’s idea of the evergreen “had nothing to do with the horrible history of lynching in the United States.”
“Lynching tress typically are not evergreens,” he added, saying deciduous trees with large, lower branches were typically used to hang Black people in the south.
Principal Filip Hristic and Whatmore said Evergreens is “a great way to capture more of a local connection the school’s identity.”
The Douglas Fir, a member of the evergreen family, is Oregon’s state tree. They are strong and hearty trees! Plus, people think of evergreens when they think of Oregon and Washington.DONATE
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