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Mary Pember: Activists protest opening day for Cleveland team

A Cleveland baseball fan in a fake headdress. Image from 100 Years of the Cleveland Indians Mascot, a video by Mary Annette Pember

Mary Annette Pember reports on the opening day protest against the racist mascot of the Cleveland professional baseball team:
Although it's been one hundred years since the inception of the Cleveland Indians’ name, it is a year like any other for Cleveland resident Marjorie Villafane of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe.

On April 10, the baseball club’s opening day at Progressive Field in Ohio, she was busy as usual behind the scenes, bringing signs for marchers to carry as they protested the racist name and logo, Chief Wahoo. She ferried protestors and supporters between meeting sites, helped cook vast amounts of venison chili and stood quietly on the edge of the boisterous group of protesters who chided passing fans for supporting a name and logo so obviously offensive to Native peoples.

Villafane and the Committee of 500 Years of Dignity and Resistance, a group of grassroots activists, have kept the fire of this campaign against racial inequity alive here for over 20 years.

This work, according to Villafane, provides some relief to all the off hand insults and gestures, the micro aggressions that come with life in this rust belt city, far from her reservation home.

YouTube: 100 Years of the Cleveland Indians Mascot
“Racial micro aggressions are brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative racial slights and insults toward people of color,” according to the Micro aggressions Project.

“We have experienced a lot of racial prejudice here; it wears you down,” she said.

She recalls incidents at her children’s school in which teachers told them that Native peoples were savages and that they deserved to die.

“We were taught not to rock the boat so I didn’t say anything but it made me mad,” she said.

Get the Story:
Protesters, Fans Clash at Cleveland Indians' Opening Day (Indian Country Today 4/13)

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