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DACA banner wording creates controversy

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By Olivia Sohn and Sofia Woo

Students signing banner after school. Photo by Christina Johnson.

Today, during 8th block and after school, the Student Advocacy Committee of the Parent Teacher Student Association held an event to sign a banner reading, “We are all immigrants and we all stand together.” The banner was displayed over the entrance to the Carol Channing Auditorium on Friday, but controversy over the wording of the statement caused it to be taken down over the weekend.

The SAC held a press conference at 3:45 p.m. Principal Andrew Ishibashi, PTSA President Stan Goldberg, and representatives of the SAC, the Black Student Union and La Raza gave statements. BSU officer Chy’na Davis and La Raza officer Lucy Perez expressed their support of the sentiment behind the banner, but said that the wording was insensitive and disrespectful. Following their statements, a representative of Assessor-Recorder Carmen Chu presented the SAC with a certificate of honor for their advocacy concerning DACA, specifically the banner. Former state senator and mayoral candidate Mark Leno and District Supervisor Norman Yee also attended and supported the SAC and PTSA. Television news outlet KPIX 5 reported on the event.

Starting Friday, the banner received a stream of complaints from students and parents who believed that its wording did not accurately reflect their experiences and their families’ experiences, according to Assistant Principal Margaret Peterson. As a result, the banner was taken down over the weekend and replaced with a new banner that reads “Lowell stands united with our DREAMERs and their families.”

What was controversial about the original banner was not the intention of the message, but rather the wording itself. It offended people who believed that it disregarded the fact that many people came to the United States against their own will, such as African slaves and refugees. “The wording ‘we are all immigrants’ conflates the narrative into one story,” Peterson said.

What was controversial about the original banner was not the intention of the message, but rather the wording itself.

Peer Resources Coordinator Adee Horn also had issues with the way the message was phrased. “When I saw the banner, I saw that the language was problematic,” she said. “We are not all immigrants and immigrants of color in our country have a very different experience than people who are white… I thought it was a disingenuous statement.’’ However, both Horn and Peterson agreed with the banner’s intention, which was to support DACA, Dreamers and their families.

Goldberg defended the wording of the banner by writing in an email to PTSA members that we are all immigrants due to our origins in Africa and later Asia. “A lot of people feel that Native Americans are indigenous people, but in actuality they are the first settlers,” he said in a subsequent interview. “They are not indigenous people because in actuality they first came over from Asia.”

Members of the BSU and La Raza did not sign the banner. Although the members of both clubs fully support DACA and stand behind Dreamers, they found the language used on the banner excluding. However they appreciate SAC’s efforts to support DACA and Lowell students. “This banner, although it had good intentions, was really disrespectful towards members of our community, ” Perez said. The officers hope that their statements will encourage better communication and discussion between adults and students on campus. “We just really want to be heard,” Perez said.

“We are not all immigrants and immigrants of color in our country have a very different experience than people who are white…”

Along with the issues that came with the message’s wording, the process in which the banner was made and displayed was controversial. During the first three weeks of school, Goldberg brought the idea of hanging a banner in support of DACA to the SAC, according to SAC member Crystal Murphy. “The PTSA president came up with the idea and brought it to the students because he thought it would send a bolder message,” she said. Goldberg consulted with two administrators of color and asked if the wording would be offensive. According to Goldberg, the administrators approved it, along with Deputy Superintendent Bill Sanderson. “I showed all the administration the poster before it went up,” Goldberg said. However, Peterson said the administration knew the intentions of those that made the banner but they had never seen it’s exact wording.

“This banner, although it had good intentions, was really disrespectful towards members of our community”

Two weeks ago, the SAC approached Horn to talk about the intentions behind the banner and to ask for support from Peer Resources. Then, last weekend before the banner went up, a photo of it was sent to Horn. Due to her disapproval of the wording, Horn met with the SAC last Monday to voice her concerns, and then discussed them with Peterson. Afterwards, Goldberg emailed Horn about her misgivings. “I think his intention was to address my concern, and he didn’t address it,” Horn said. “He acknowledged it, but he didn’t address it.”

After the original banner went up on Friday, the administration told Goldberg that it was not inclusive of all students’ experiences, according to Goldberg. In response, he sent out an email to the PTSA that same day entitled, “PTSA under attack — Urgent response requested.” It explained the reasoning as to why the banner was being taken down and asked for responses from parents and students. “It is painful that this moment of togetherness within our community has been changed by a few into a moment of divisiveness,” Goldberg wrote in the email.

Mark Leno speaks at press conference. Photo by Christina Johnson.

Throughout the process of putting up the banner, there were miscommunications. Goldberg sent an email to the PTSA emailing list on Sunday that said, “The Black Student Union and La Raza will be signing the banner with the copy, ‘We are all immigrants and we will all stand together.’” However, BSU and La Raza had no intention of signing that copy. Additionally, BSU and La Raza never approved the wording on the signed banner. “They never gave us the final word on what the banner would say,” Davis said. “We just supported the idea of it being about DACA.”

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The SAC encouraged students leaving school during 8th block and after school to sign the banner. Many students were unaware of the controversy surrounding the wording, according to the BSU. “I think they probably don’t know what they’re signing it for, what the message means and how it doesn’t relate to everyone,” Davis said.

“I think they probably don’t know what they’re signing it for, what the message means and how it doesn’t relate to everyone”

After the press conference was over, members from BSU, La Raza and the SAC had an informal meeting to talk about how there could have been better communication and how to include people of color at Lowell more, according to Davis. “We came to an agreement that we’re gonna talk more and have better communication with each other,” she said.

The signed banner will be sent to President Donald Trump, according to Goldberg.

Students signing banner. Photo by Christina Johnson.
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DACA banner wording creates controversy