Last month, I re-ignited this blog with a post (the first in a series) on manners. I did so with a promise to post something at least once a month for a year and pledged that this month’s edition would focus on cell phone etiquitte. I had the entire piece ready to go and then…..Charleston. What more can I say? That horrible, senseless, tragic event left me feeling like the rest of the country–horrified and shocked. I considered writing something else to express my feelings on that entire event but that would have only called attention to myself and that’s not why I write. I like to write with a touch of humor and try give people a laugh. Obviously that was a time that called for prayer and was not a time to joke around about anything; so I chose to wait. I didn’t know a single person in that church or from that city and was not directly involved in any way so I didn’t feel qualified to add anything to that very somber discussion. Last Sunday at church, My Pastor prayed for each family affected by the shooting–including the family of the shooter–and that’s all I know to do as well. Pray; and place ALL those touched by this tragedy into the hands of Almighty God. For the last few days though, there’s something buzzing in the local news that’s hitting close to home. It’s something that doesn’t affect the quality of human life I’ll grant you, but something important in my community none-the-less. The notorious “They” are trying to come after The Vestavia Rebels and that’s just something I can’t stay quiet about. “They” are saying that “The Rebel mascot is a vestige of racism” and “a smear on the city”. I take issue with that. I won’t go so far as to say I am offended because I am so dearly sick and tired of hearing about what everyone is offended by; but I will tell you why I disagree and I will also tell you a little something “They” may not know.
The Vestavia Hills Rebels are not just a football team, or a soccer team or marching band or a school–The Vestavia Hills Rebels are a FAMILY. A strong, close knit family not only of students and athletes but of teachers, coaches and parents–many teachers, coaches and parents who themselves were once Vestavia Rebel students and athletes. This community is lovely, lively and flourishing and it reaches from Liberty Park through Cahaba Heights all the way to “The Hills.” It is warm and welcoming, loving and supportive, respected and beloved and filled with what Coach Buddy Anderson would call The Rebel Spirit. My family and I moved to Vestavia Hills just over 15 years ago and fell in love with the entire community. Since that time I have served as room mother to countless class rooms at three different schools, produced the elementary school yearbook for five years and worked at May-Day Play Day and Pirate Day and Lancer Day on numerous occasions. I have served during registration at VHELP and Pizitz and Liberty Park and VHHS more times than I can count. I composed the VHHS All Sports Program for three years and I also served as a member of the Vestavia Hills Athletic Board for four years. I know the secret game dog recipe for “Rebel Sauce” and I’m pretty sure there’s a permanent dent in the top row of Thompson Reynolds Stadium from my backside. I am also a member of Vestavia Hills United Methodist Church. My experience within this community is widespread and never, not one time in 15 years, have I ever heard one single person mention anything at all about our mascot in a negative way nor have I ever seen it used negatively. I have had countless students and athletes (as well as parents, teachers and coaches) from all races and socioeconomic backgrounds in my home for meals and events and while I have seen most all of them proudly wear uniforms or T-shirts of some sort bearing The Vestavia Rebel mascot, I have never seen or heard about racism of any type. I am not a fool and I can only imagine that it does go on in this school and in this community; but I don’t believe it happens because of a mascot. I don’t believe that a rebel mascot represents racism any more than I believe a blue-devil mascot represents satanism. For the record, if I did believe The Vestavia Rebel mascot was a racial issue, I would be the first to want it gone. I don’t know the person Mr. Archibald mentions in his article and certainly don’t bear any ill will toward her or anyone else regarding this issue. Everyone is entitled to their opinion. I also agree everyone has right to yell “Go ‘whatever'” they like. Anyone who wants to can yell “Go unicorns” if it makes them feel better; it really doesn’t matter. If someone has hate in their heart, a mascot certainly isn’t going to change that. Trying to make folks feel guilty about having pride for a mascot they all love is silly, pointless and takes focus away from things that really matter. My last check of the Birmingham News poll on changing our Rebel to something new showed that out of 1981 votes, 1282 people had voted to keep it exactly the same. That just goes to show you, there’s nothing anyone can do to break The Rebel Spirit.
I would also like to ask this: Where will it stop? Where will we draw the line? What about Alabama football? Can they still be “Dixie’s football pride”? Or Auburn–they claim to be the “power of Dixieland“–should they change the fight song just incase it offends someone who would rather hear them say they are the “power of The Plains” or some such nonsense? Let’s move away from football now and let me ask if we are going to stop eating from Kentucky Fried Chicken, which is promoted and served by the Antebellum Colonel Sanders? Do we throw out all of our Aunt Jemima pancake syrup? What about my dog? Her name is Dixie. Should I change it? Chicken and syrup and dogs and football fight songs have about just as much to do with the promotion of hatred and as a high school mascot. Absolutely nothing. If hate lives in your heart, it doesn’t matter where you eat, who you yell for or what you call your dog. You’ve got to get right with God to change that. In the last several years I have seen many good ways in which The Vestavia Rebels represent the school. Here are a very few examples:
-After the April 27th tornadoes, I saw Rebel Football coaches and players (only hours after the storm) load up into trucks with chainsaws and head out into the community to cut down trees.
-Each year, rather than taking semester tests for athletics (where no test would be necessary) Rebel athletes go out into the community and work in the neglected yards of elderly Vestavia residents.
-In the winter, Rebel athletes can be spotted under the bridge in downtown Birmingham handing out coats to the homeless. -After every single football game (and I’m sure other sports do the same) the entire team kneels on the field to pray. 99% of the time the opposing team joins in.
-For the last several years, VHHS has not named a Valedictorian because TOO MANY students have a 4.0 or above.
-VHHS Habitat for Humanity builds a home for a needy family each year. -VHHS Relay For Life raises an enormous amount of money for cancer research each year. In 2015 they raised over $176,000.00. -Through SGA, STUDENTS purchase gifts for other needy STUDENTS during Christmas time and deliver them anonymously.
-Every Wednesday night (for over 30 years) Head Coach Buddy Anderson has lead FCA in his home.
-VHHS is one of only ten Blue Ribbon High Schools in the state of Alabama.
I could go on and on and on but, I won’t. I will just close with this–Things can change and things have changed. At Vestavia Hills High School, being a Rebel means loving everyone equally. It means helping others. It means working hard, making a difference, doing what’s right. Being a Rebel means striving every day to grow and to love one another. Regardless of what it once may have meant to be a “Rebel”, that’s what it means now–at least in Vestavia Hills. In the past that word may have had a negative connotation but that is no longer the case. This school, these administrators, teachers, coaches, students, athletes and this entire community have changed that definition. At Vestavia Hills, everyone is a part of the Rebel family and anyone who is a part of that family knows…. When you play one Rebel, you play us all.
In my opinion, when people focus on the things that matter, instead of the things that don’t, the world is a much better place.