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Councilwoman lectures high school students over offensive black stick figure

A panel in a quilt celebrating civic engagement infuriated one Martinsville City Councilmember because it showed a dark stick-figure that turned gold when it was enriched with knowledge. (WDBJ-TV screen shot)

High school students in Virginia just wanted to celebrate their city with a quilt, but their presentation ended in controversy when a City Councilwoman was so offended by a black stick figure on the quilt that she tried to block it from public display.

High school juniors at Piedmont Governor’s School in Martinsville each made a panel for a quilt project as a celebration of what they learned about the region and local government.

The sixteen students each took turns explaining panels, one depicting street lamps in appreciation of how the city serves its people. But one panel stopped the whole presentation.

“We got to walk across the Philpott Dam and the small black person represents us before we learned all the information,” explained a female student, “and then the bigger gold person is how he feels after he’s been enriched with all the different knowledge.”

Councilwoman Sharon Brooks-Hodge seized on the small panel in the bottom-left, interrupting the student.

“Excuse me. Um, why is the small black person the negative image?” asked Brooks-Hodge.

As Brooks-Hodge continued criticizing the quilt panel, the girl explaining the panel started to cry.

“This isn’t the girl who did the panel, and now this City Councilwoman is making this sixteen-year-old girl defend something that is purely based on the Councilwoman’s insanity,” said Dori.

The male student that created the panel explained that he didn’t mean the black stick figure to depict race.

“I was just doing a dark color and a bright color,” he said.

Brooks-Hodge continued to challenge him, saying that the black color offended her “as a person who is of dark color.” When he asked what color he should have used, she said it didn’t matter – as long as it wasn’t black.

“Whoever reviewed that to make a small black person the before and the gold which you are afterwards, considering you only talked to 10 percent of black people in a city that’s 45 percent African-American, I take offense to that and I hope that you do not display that,” Brooks-Hodge said.

The class had planned to hang the quilt at a municipal building, but Brooks-Hodge demanded that it not be shown publicly.

The local chapter of the NAACP later sent a letter to the City Council in support of Brooks-Hodge, saying “This young man had not received training on how offensive depictions like this were to people of color. If he had, this incident could have been avoided.”

Dori says that the Councilwoman’s reaction spoiled what could have been an incredible learning opportunity.

“Here’s what we’ve learned: these kids, they try to do something nice for the city, for their government, and they’re greeted by the insanity of political correctness,” said Dori.

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