On a portion of Parrett Mountain with views of Newberg, a large, plywood Pride flag stands visible from the Newberg High School football field. Now, a new addition has been built next to it by property owner Erin McCarthy and volunteers from the local Black community: A Black Lives Matter sign.
The idea for building the second sign came from local activists, including former school board candidate Tai Harden-Moore, who also is the parent of a Newberg student. It comes in response to the school board's Aug. 10 directive banning Black Lives Matter and Pride displays in schools, which faces an uphill legal battle and significant resistance in the community.
"When the board voted the way it did, there was a lot of community outrage and it was warranted," Harden-Moore said. "But I felt that as the days and weeks went by, the focus has been largely on Pride and not as much on Black Lives Matter. I think that's unfortunate because both symbols are under attack, and the response should be equal.
"There is a very small Black population in Newberg, but they deserve as much attention as the issue of Pride. The outpouring of support for Pride has been great, and I support it myself, but we have to acknowledge everyone that's impacted by this."
Harden-Moore, along with activist Dre Miller and others, raised money on GoFundMe for the supplies, with the leftover cash raised going to the NHS Black Student Union. They hope the new flag sheds a light on an important part of the fight against the school board's agenda, Harden-Moore said.
"I feel that our students of color should be able to see that Black Lives Matter sign, because it shows that person is someone who it is safe to talk to, interact with and share with, whether that sign is in a classroom or up on a hillside," Harden-Moore said. "There's been so much said about Black Lives Matter the organization, but those people who've framed it that way are full of crap. We are talking about the statement that a Black life matters, not a call to action to join Black Lives Matter the organization."
McCarthy said her Pride flag, which she and her husband, Jaybill, built with the help of LBGTQ and allied volunteers from around the state, has received a largely positive response. However, she is worried about online threats that have been made by those who oppose the flag.
"I've received messages from teachers, students, former students, former Newberg residents and it has been really heartwarming to see that this resonates with people and that it makes them feel like this rural community isn't a hotbed of bigotry because of a decision by a school board," McCarthy said. "The response to the first flag has been overwhelmingly positive. I appreciate all the kind words and messages, but with that there have been a handful of folks who have reached out to say some unkind things. And there have also been folks who have been doing some saber rattling. Several individuals made some comments that were a little scary, so we thought it might be a good idea to beef up our home security."
Harden-Moore said she stands with the McCarthys in the face of alleged bigoted remarks by the opposition and looks forward to driving by the high school and seeing the BLM sign right next to the Pride one.
"I have heard that Erin has received threats to her property, and I really hope folks don't do that," Harden-Moore said. "We all have differences of opinion and that's OK, but there is something to be said about civil discourse. There is no reason to threaten or cause harm. We can work through these issues as a community. We just have to listen to and respect each other, and everyone has to be arguing in good faith."
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