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Native American Student Wears Feather at Graduation Has Diploma Denied

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As you know it is graduation season across the United States. It is the time of year where the parents, relatives, and friends of graduating students gather to support and celebrate the accomplishment. For students and supporters alike, a graduation ceremony is a proud moment that punctuatess a stuident’s commitment to hard work and excellence, as well as the collective efforts of the support structure for each individual student. As a racial minority, given statistics, a minority student graduating at any level is an immense source of pride for all involved.

Such was the case when Chelsey Ramer, 17, graduated from Escambia Academy High School on May 23rd, 2013. Sadly, the significance and celebration of her accomplishment on that day has since been diminished by what I think to be rather silly. That would be, what I see as an attempt to supress an expression of ethnic pride by a student who happens to be a Native American. I see this as racist, but what say you?

This from NBC 15:

ATMORE, Ala. (WPMI) – An Escambia Academy High School student said she was denied a diploma and fined $1,000 for wearing an eagle feather at her graduation.

For 17-year-old Chelsey Ramer, graduating on May 23 was supposed to be a joyous occasion.

“I was excited,” said Ramer.

It has been more than a week, and she still does not have her diploma. She said it is all because of her feather.

“They told me that if I wore it that they would pull me off the field,” said Ramer.

The eagle feather is part of her Native American Heritage. Ramer is of the Poarch Creek Band of Indians. She wanted to wear the feather as a show of pride for her heritage.

“Being honored with a feather for graduation is a wonderful experience. It’s a lot more than showing off your culture. It has ties into our spirituality as well,” Ramer’s former teacher Alex Alvarez.

According to a school contract, Ramer must pay a $1,000 fine to get her diploma and transcripts.

“I don’t think it’s fair at all. I feel like its discrimination,” Ramer stated.

Chelsey Ramer

Chelsey Ramer

The contract states, “Students and staff shall not wear extraneous items during graduation exercises unless approved by the administration.”

Ramer stated she asked the Headmaster at the time for permission to wear the eagle feather.

“She told us we could not wear our feathers,” said Ramer.

Shortly after inquiring, Ramer said she was told she must sign the dress code contract to walk on graduation.

Ramer stated, “I never signed it,”

Instead, she still walked across the stage proudly with her feathers and family’s support.

“It was worth it. It means a lot to me,” said Ramer.

Now, you might not agree with me, but we can talk in out in the comment section below. Aside from my opinion, what I do know is that the part of the country where this school stands is very racist. How do I know? Because I lived there as a transplant from up north for two years. I happened to move there for professional reasons. On my first day on the job, I was told by the president of the company, that there were certain parts of the area that I, as a black man, should be careful in my travels. He reminded me that Escambia County, Florida wasn’t friendly to anyone who could survive without wearing sunblock — that is, us melanin afflicted folks fresh off of the cotton fields.

I was told that the region was known as L.A., and after my puzzled look became obvious, I was told that L.A. stood for “Lower Alabama”. Yes, we’re talking the deep south. And this was back in early 2005, a few months before Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast.I mean the crack of Uncle Sam’s ass, deep. It was the region where one community complained about victims of Hurricane Katrina being put up for shelter only one day after being rescued from the storm. The complaints of those concerned citizens led to said Katrina victims being relocated within twenty-four hours.

But my history and experiences aside — oh, I forgot to mention me driving and being ran off the road by a redneck in a pickup truck flying a rebel flag — I applaud what Chelsey did by taking a stand by choosing to go against the grain and wear her eagle feather. The school principal has since resigned, and I hope she is able to get her diploma without having to pay a $1000 fine for being displaying her Native American pride.

Ramer said she felt like she and three of her fellow Creek Indian students were being unfairly punished for something that was allowed in the past.

“My freshman year I went to graduation and students were wearing feathers and they didn’t get in any trouble,” she said. “I don’t think they asked permission. So we asked for permission about two or three months before graduation. (Warren) turned us down and said if we wore our feathers we would be pulled off the field.”

Ramer said several days before the ceremony, the students were presented with a piece of paper outlining acceptable graduation attire. She said she was told if she did not sign it, she would not be able to walk.

“I didn’t sign it,” Ramer said. “A few days later I did sign something, but it had nothing to do with graduation.”

Ramer said she did not make the decision to wear the feather during the ceremony until minutes before her name was called.

“None of my other friends were going to wear it,” she said. “Then I just thought, ‘This is what I’ve been waiting on; I feel like I have a right to wear it.’ I wore it on the field and I don’t think they even saw it until I got up to the stage to get my diploma.” (source)

 

Watch the video below:

 

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Written by:

Published on: June 2, 2013

Filled Under: Justice, Race

Views: 1102

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  • kwame_zulu_shabazz

    Outrageous! We are on Native American land. The feather is barely noticeable, a clear case of over reach. On the upside, the “Headmaster was fired”…that is a good start. Hopefully, the school district will come to their collective senses and waive the fine. kzs

  • Jenni Elizabeth Escoto

    I would have wore it too! I think that some people will stop at nothing to diminish, marginalize, and oppress those they feel are a threat to them. I hope she sues and gets her diploma!

  • Cindy H.

    I think it’s pretty bold that she put it on at the last minute, knowing the risk. And at her age, the risk is scary, which is why her friends didn’t do it.

    Without knowing about L.A., I would have just considered this a very absurd attempt at a school administration trying to exert “power” for no logical reason. A feather? Really?

    So then one has to consider what the big deal is? Is there a history of native Americans abusing the dress code prior to this? Or just kids abusing the dress code in general (“Hi mom” on the caps?)?

    But add in the Katrina, rebel flag and sunblock required anecdotes and things start to get suspicious.

    Unfortunately, how do you change a racist town? You can fire the principal but how do you fire the town?

    I hope she gets her diploma without forking over $1000. Better yet, I’d love to see Rev. Al Sharpton donate $1000 for the diploma. Now that would be SWEET.