Written by Eric Anderson
Just over one hundred General Synod delegates and visitors marched the mile from the Convention Center to the Progressive Field headquarters of the Cleveland Indians baseball team, demanding that the owners cease using a race of people as a mascot. They particularly wish the team to stop using the “Chief Wahoo” logo, a racially exaggerated caricature.
Executive for Justice and Witness Ministries the Rev. Linda Jaramillo told the marchers that she was delighted to see the power of the Holy Spirit at work. She led the trek to the baseball stadium, where a team representative (wearing the logo) politely declined to admit her to speak with management. He did accept a package of 3,000 signatures, promising to deliver them to corporate leadership.
The marchers renewed their chants again, and thengathered to pray with Louis Blue Coat, a lay pastor in Dupree, South Dakota. “We are praying for the hearts and minds of the owners of the team,” he said. “This is racist. It is a racist caricature. It needs to be talked about in the attitude of love, peace, and justice.”
The petition, authored by Toni Buffalo, a member of the UCC and the Lakota nation, reads in part:
“For more than 100 years, the Cleveland baseball team has adopted the name ‘Indians’ and perpetuated the myth of Indigenous peoples as savages in this continent. It's the same negative stereotype that was used to justify genocide and land theft from our communities.”
During the march, most passers-by looked on with surprise and wonder. Some joined the chanting, and a few cars sounded their horns in support. Only two young men loudly challenged the activists as they made the walk.
“It’s time to retire the racist logo — and I mean racist logo,” said Charlene Higginbotham, one of the marchers and a Cleveland resident. “It’s like the Confederate flag.”
The Rev. Mendle Adams, a retired UCC pastor now living in Cleveland, has grandchildren who are members of the Lakota nation. “I see this as an affront to my grandkids,” he said. “It’s symbolic of the rolling genocide… It’s time to repent of that.”
Rev. Jaramillo had one final instruction to the marchers after they prayed: To keep up the pressure. “Go home,” she told them, “and take on the charge.”