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School District Reconsidering Evergreen Tree Mascot Due To Racism Concerns

Portland, OR – A Portland high school has postponed changing its mascot to an evergreen tree after a member of the committee warned that a tree mascot would have possible connotations to lynching.

Ida B. Wells-Barnett High School is named after an African-American journalist who wrote about lynchings, according to the Portland Tribune.

After three of her friends were lynched in 1892, Wells-Barnett began an editorial crusade against lynching, according to Britannica.com. She wrote articles against lynching for the New York Age and then lectured around the U.S. and Great Britain against lynching.

The resolution to implement a tree for a mascot was tabled on March 30 when the Portland Public Schools Board of Educators raised concerns that a tree would remind people of lynchings where African Americans were hanged.

“I’m wondering if there was any concern with the imagery there, in using a tree … as our mascot?” Director Michelle DePass asked the committee that came up with the new mascot, according to the Portland Tribune. “I think everyone comes with blind spots and I think that might’ve been a really big blind spot.”

The high school principal Filip Hristic said that he shared her concerns.
“We take this seriously and I definitely want to follow that commitment to protect, preserve and promote the legacy of Ida B. Wells,” Hristic said, according to the Portland Tribune. Hristic said the school’s committee hadn’t had conversations with the Wells-Barnett family about using evergreen trees as the new mascot.

The previous mascot was a Trojan.

The district sent out a survey of new potential mascots in February with 420 different nominations.

According to Fox News, committee member Martin Osborne said the evergreen was meant to symbolize “a tree of life” and not “a tree of death,” and that it had “nothing to do with the horrible history of lynching in the United States.”

The school board has postponed voting on the mascot change until its next meeting, Fox News reported.

Written by
Tom Gantert

Tom Gantert graduated from Michigan State University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Tom started in the newspaper business in 1983. He has worked at the Jackson Citizen Patriot (Michigan), Lansing State Journal (Michigan), Ann Arbor News (Michigan), Vineland Daily-Journal (Michigan), North Hills News Record (Pennsylvania) and USA Today (Virginia). He is also currently the managing editor of Michigan Capitol Confidential, a daily news site of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Tom is the father of a Michigan State Police trooper.

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Written by Tom Gantert

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