MISSISSAUGA – In this day and age sometimes it just takes a hashtag to make a change, or in Woodland Secondary School’s case, to start a movement.
In response to recent news headlines relating to alleged racist and inappropriate professional sports team and logos, history teacher Cheryl Payne saw an opportunity to teach the students in her three history classes how to respond to and educate people on these indigenous issues — specifically asking that the Rogers Centre recognize and respect the indigenous population here in Canada and not promote the Major League Baseball’s Cleveland team’s logo and team name.
“It’s kind of blown up,” said Payne. “The students here at Woodland are very diverse and we want the students here to understand and respect the land that our school stands on.”
Payne and her students used the hashtags: #recognizethelands and #notyourmascot on Twitter to raise awareness to an allegedly racist American baseball team logo and team name — the Cleveland Indians. A hashtag is a word or phrase preceded by a hash or pound sign and used to identify messages on a specific topic, usually on social media outlets.
“One of our tweets got about 20,000 impressions [retweets, comments, remarks, views] in a very short time,” said Payne.
The Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation (MNCFN) have been actively calling out and making a stand against Cleveland’s team for the allegedly racist connotations behind the team name and logo — New Credit Chief R. Stacey LaForme came to Woodland Secondary School Monday, October 17 to thank the school staff and students for their determination and appreciation for the indigenous people of Canada.
“I greatly respect and encourage the actions of the students who took part in this movement,” said Laforme. “It moves me to see so many individuals standing alongside First Nations groups and doing what they can to foster growth and educate others.”
“It’s moments like this that we need to hold on to and remember while we all move towards reconciliation together,” he said.
The students have gotten very involved with the movement, especially Grade 10 students Nadine Abou-seido and Amy Dong.
“This far into it, we know we’re not just trying to get a team to change their name,” said Abou-seido. “We’re trying to bring awareness to the problems that First Nations people face every day.”
Abou-seido and Dong even reached out and tried to contact the league for comment but were not successful in making contact.
“There was just a lot of unanswered emails and run-around phones calls that led nowhere,” said Abou-seido.
Dong said that Payne warned the students that not everybody would appreciate their efforts.
“She [Payne] told us when we started that there will be individuals who respond and comment negatively on our tweets and posts,” said Dong. “We were told that reconciliation is awkward and some people might not know how to respond to it and that it is an uncomfortable topic.”
Most recently, the Cleveland team has not announced that there will be any change to the team’s name of logo, but Payne and her students are pleased that they are still effectively fostering discussion about important indigenous issues.