Black History display had deeper meaning to former studentMar 11, 2021 02:57PM ● By Becky Ginos
BOUNTIFUL—When a Black History display at Hannah Holbrook Elementary was taken down after some parents complained, Brynn Martindale had to speak out. Martindale, an African American student at Bountiful High who attended the school as a child wrote a letter to the principal about her concerns.
“I wrote the letter because I feel like people who aren’t African American don’t understand,” she said. “I thought the display was cool and to see it being taken down really frustrated me. It showed elementary kids that people are equal and they shouldn’t be scared about things they didn’t know about.”
Kids could read that as they were walking to class and get a better understanding, said Martindale. “That’s something I never got growing up.”
Martindale said she experienced racism at an early age. “Growing up in a predominantly white area has never been easy. It kind of felt like I had to excuse the racist remarks that I got. I never spoke up, in fear of invalidation and while trying to be the bigger person.”
The display, using letters of the alphabet to depict a word or definition was removed after Natalie Cline, a Utah State Board of Education member posted it on social media calling it highly political and encouraging parents to contact the school.
“I’ve never really had the opportunity to celebrate Black History month in a school setting before,” said Martindale in the letter. “None the less, having the ABC’s displayed in the hallway about things that are really important to me and the people of color community was an awesome step forward for educating elementary kids that everyone is welcome and safe in a school environment.”
Last week, Martindale got a visit from school board President John Robison and Superintendent Reid Newey. “Both of them said they were proud of me and happy that I was able to speak up,” she said. “They apologized and said it wasn’t the district but in the hands of the PTA. Their frustration was with the school board member (Cline) who stepped in when it was not her business and caused a commotion.”
“I was disappointed that Miss Cline had intervened in this situation,” said Robison. “She put it on Facebook and told parents to call. In hindsight it should have gone a little slower (taking it down).”
Everyone has a sincere desire to do what is best for students, he said. “As a former teacher, principal and now a board member, in the future we’ll get the perspective of school members and the community. Brynn opened my eyes wider. We should go ask African American students and parents and get their perspective as well.”
Our local representative on the State School Board is Laura Belnap, this is her area, Robison said. “She would have contacted the Superintendent. I’m upset with the board member (Cline) for sticking her nose into this business that isn’t her area.”
Brynn is illustrative of our students, he said. “Sometimes we take for granted that there are people who have different experiences. We have sharp, sharp young people in the district.”
It’s a learning experience, Robison said. “It’s unfortunate we have to learn the hard way. But we have to take what happened and learn from it. If we just move on and don’t learn from it, it would be a loss for all of us.”
Robison said he isn’t upset with the principal or PTA. “We’re all in this together. We’re all in it for the same reason – that’s for the kids.”
“I’m not mad at anyone,” Martindale said. “All we can do is recognize our mistakes and move on. I just want people of all skin tones to feel welcome and that they belong in the school.”