The Cleveland Indians' "Chief Wahoo" (Photo by Najah Lee)
2016 has been a crazy year for Cleveland fans. We've been on an emotional roller coaster — from thinking our chances to "end the 50-year curse" was diminished when the Cavs were down 3 to 1 in the NBA finals, to coming back and winning in an epic-like Cleveland fashion. Yes, this year has been exciting. Our beloved Cleveland Indians picked up the torch LeBron and the gang lit and continued to parade it through our hearts. Baseball analysts could not have predicted we would be where we are right now; and that is in the ALCS in Toronto, Canada. They have by far out-performed my level of expectation and hope for the team. As we prepare for more suspense and thrills, others are preparing to add "drama" to this already intense series.
So, the emotional rollercoaster continues...
CLEVELAND IS FACING ANOTHER UPHILL BATTLE THAT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH OUR BULLPEN OR HEAVY BATS. IT HAS EVERYTHING TO DO WITH WHO WE ARE. THE INDIANS. OUR NAME AND LOGO (CHIEF WAHOO) HAVE BEEN LONG PROTESTED BY INGENIOUS PEOPLE AROUND THE WORLD. ACCORDING TO AN ARTICLE IN THE LA TIMES BY CHUCK SCHILKEN, CLEVELAND MAY NOT BE ABLE TO WEAR OUR CHIEF WAHOO BALL CAPS OR EVEN SHOWCASE THE "INDIANS" NAME ON THE FIELD OR IN THE STADIUM. I'M NOT GOING TO GO INTO THE VALIDITY OF THIS PETITION, HOWEVER, I DO WANT TO CONTINUE THE DISCUSSION OF HURTFUL IMAGERY IN AMERICA.
ARE YOU DISRESPECTED BY CHIEF WAHOO?
AS A LONG TIME CLEVELAND INDIANS FAN, I TAKE GREAT PRIDE IN OUR CHIEF WAHOO. I HAVE PLENTY OF FAN GEAR WITH THE LOGO SATURATED IN RED, WHITE, NAVY AND BLACK COLORS. MOST OF MY FRIENDS WHO ARE ALSO FANS PREFER THE WAHOO LOGO OVER THE 'C' BLOCK LOGO. WHEN I WEAR MY GEAR, I FEEL I AM REPRESENTING A CULTURE OF BASEBALL, BEGINNING WITH THE MOST MEMORABLE RUN IN MY LIFETIME, THE ERA OF KENNY LOFTON, JIM THOME, MANNY RAMIREZ, DAVID BELL, OMAR VISQUEL AND OREL HERSHISER. THIS WAS A GREAT TIME FOR CLEVELAND FANS. WE PLACED ALL OF OUR SPORT ENTHUSED DESIRES INTO THIS TEAM. SO FOR ME, I REMEMBER THE JOY I FELT WHEN WATCHING OMAR MAKE A RIDICULOUS CATCH LEADING TO A DOUBLE PLAY. I WEAR THE WAHOO AND REMEMBER LOFTON'S CHAIN BOUNCING ON HIS CHEST AS HE STOLE SECOND BASE. THESE ARE ALL PLEASANT THOUGHTS FOR ME. AS FOR OTHERS, THEY MAY BE THE EXACT OPPOSITE.
WHEN INDIGENOUS PEOPLE SEE US PARADING AROUND, FULL OF GLEE, REPRESENTING OUR HOME TEAM, THEY MAY FEEL SLIGHTED, INSULTED, AND DEHUMANIZED. THE HUMANITY IN ME UNDERSTANDS EXACTLY HOW THIS FEEL. BEING A DESCENDANT OF SLAVES — STOLEN FROM OUR LAND FOR THE SOLE PURPOSE TO PRODUCE ECONOMIC WEALTH IN DISHONORABLE, DYSFUNCTIONAL, DISCRIMINATING "FOUNDING FATHERS" OF THIS GREAT COUNTRY WE CALL AMERICA — I FULLY COMPREHEND HOW THEY FEEL.
BEING BLACK IN AMERICA IS CHALLENGING. BEING BLACK IN AMERICA AND REFUSING TO BE DESENSITIZED TO THE PAIN OF OTHERS IS EVEN MORE CHALLENGING. AS A SOCIETY, SOMETIMES WE TEND TO FOCUS ON "OUR OWN STUFF" WITHOUT BARRING WITNESS TO THE CHALLENGES AFFECTING MEMBERS IN OTHER COMMUNITIES. OUR NEIGHBORS. OUR COWORKERS. OUR FRIENDS. WE, AMERICANS, OVERLOOK EACH OTHER'S WOES. I TOO HAVE FALLEN VICTIM TO THIS PLAGUE. WHILE I WEAR MY WAHOO FITTED CAP, I DISREGARD THE NOTION OF DISRESPECTING AN ENTIRE RACE OF PEOPLE.
I ROCK MY GEAR WITH PRIDE.
I CAN'T SAY THAT TODAY, AT THIS MOMENT, I WILL REFRAIN FROM WEARING MY WAHOO HATS. TO ME, THEY REPRESENT SO MUCH MORE THAN JUST A LOGO. I CAN SAY THAT I WILL CONTINUE TO CHALLENGE MYSELF TO BE OPEN-MINDED WHEN UNDERSTANDING OTHERS POINT OF VIEWS. JUST GETTING TO THE POINT OF PENNING THIS OUT LOUD, LETTING YOU ALL INTO MY RESERVATIONS ABOUT WEARING SOMETHING SO DEAR TO ME IS A HUGE FIRST STEP. MY INTENTIONS, MUCH LIKE THOSE PLAYERS AND MANAGERS STEPPING ONTO THE FIELD TONIGHT IN TORONTO, ARE NOT TO HURT ANYONE. MY ONLY GOAL IS ROOT AND CHEERS MY TEAM ON TO VICTORY. GO CLEVELAND!
Written exploration of ALL THINGS CREATIVE curated by Najah Lee -- writer, emcee, photographer, critical thinker and brand consultant.