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South Albany High school is exploring the possibility of changing their mascot, the "Rebels."

Some recall the birth of the Rebel mascot as a rebellion from Albany Union High, others who attended SAHS in its first 20-plus years remember the signs of the Confederacy throughout our school.

There is no erasing the history of the Confederacy, nor can SAHS erase its use of Confederate names, logos, and symbols that have been used to represent our high school, the “South Albany High Rebels.”

SAHS Principal Brent Belveal is leading a thoughtful process of discussion with the students about changing the mascot.

Recently I observed students from SAHS and Parkrose High School who met for a one-day workshop about mascots and perception versus reality. The students were considerate, honest, and passionate as they discussed the issues surrounding use of the mascot.

Now, the Greater Albany Public School district has hired a facilitator to take the mascot discussion to the community. They have scheduled three listening sessions, but are limiting access to the first 75 people.

Superintendent Jim Golden should reconsider this restriction. As many people in the community as possible should attend these listening sessions. When discussing race, racism, and perception versus reality, we cannot limit the voices needing to be heard.

Also, as we celebrate Black History Month in February, it is crucial to have a person of color to co-facilitate the sessions. The lived experiences of people of color should no longer be silenced, excluded and ignored.

How can we expect people of color to attend, feel safe, and voice their opinion if limits are imposed on those voices, and if the conversation is dominated by those who have no lived experience contrary to their own?

History is watching.

Sam Sachs

Portland (Feb. 8)

(Sam Sachs is a former three-sport athlete and 1986 graduate of South Albany High School.)

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