Coachella Valley High Students, Alumni, Officials Extoll Pride in Arab Mascot

Coachella front
During a meeting of the Coachella Valley Unified School District at Coachella Valley High, where the school’s Arab mascot recently drew criticism from the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, Friday Nov. 15, 2013. Patch photo by Guy McCarthy.

COACHELLA – Coachella Valley High students, alumni and officials extolled pride Friday night in their school’s Arab mascot, which recently drew criticism from the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee in Washington, D.C.

About 100 people took part in a special meeting of the school district board Nov. 15 in Coachella Valley High’s gymnasium, which is adorned with Arabs sports championship banners dating from the 1930s.

“We decided we wanted to have time for our public to talk about the issues surrounding the mascot,” Dr. Darryl Adams, Coachella Valley Unified School District’s superintendent, told Patch before the meeting started.

“The name is no longer an issue,” Adams said. “We’re going to keep our name. But there are some attributes of our mascot that the ADC, the organization that brought this forward, they seem to think it’s offensive to them.

“They wanted to discuss it,” Adams said. “We’re open to discussing it. We wanted to have an opportunity to discuss it with our students and alumni and stakeholders first.”

The gathering was an informational meeting at which no action was taken. No one from the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee attended, but Abed Ayoub, director of legal and policy affairs for the ADC, told Patch he intends to visit Coachella Valley High next week.

Speakers at the meeting included Richard Ramirez, a Coachella Valley High graduate, teacher, and alumni president.

“It’s a pleasure to come here tonight, especially on something that means so much to all of us that have Arab pride,” Ramirez said. “I want to thank you all for the way you’ve handled this problem. I call it a problem because sometimes we take things for granted.

“However, when I think back over the 40 years I was here as a teacher, the four years I was here as a student, and since 2008 I’ve been president of the alumni association, our whole goal has always been to maintain the highest standard for our Arab and the Arab pride we all have had here at CV High School. . . .

“I know that I only have three minutes and I will simply say, that in the beginning in the 1920s when they had the first Date Festival, after receiving the date shoots from Iraq and the Middle East, they said it wasn’t going to work.

“Well guess what? Multimillion dollar operation going on in our valley called the date industry. And in 1921 . . .  at the Date Festival, all the people in the community dressed up in Arabian garb. If you dressed up in Arabian costume you got in free to the Date Festival. So everybody was dressing up like an Arab.”

People in the gym burst into applause.

“And as we grew so did the Date Festival and the National Date Festival. In result they built that beautiful state’s fair, they had the Arabian Nights Pageant, they had Queen Scheherazade.

“Now none of that was to be demeaning to the Arab culture in the Middle East. It was a matter of pride, that ‘Look what we’ve done with your industry here in our Coachella Valley’ and now producing 95 percent of the dates in the United States right here in our beautiful little valley. It is just an unbelievable thing that has happened.

“The first time that an athletic team was called the Arabs was on October the 16th, 1931, when the Arabs were playing Hemet High School. We were called the Nomads also because we didn’t have a football field, so we traveled everywhere.

“But on that particular occasion the writer wrote ‘The Galloping Arabs soared through the field to record their 12 to 6 victory over Hemet High School.’ The Galloping Arabs. Thereafter it stuck and here we are almost a hundred years later, it’s still with us.

“As for the face of the Arabs, it’s changed before, and we can tweak it again, and make changes that would be acceptable to our Arab brothers in the Middle East and the United States.”

After the Friday night meeting, the Coachella Valley Unified School District issued a statement announcing Ayoub’s visit, and plans for a press conference at CVUSD headquarters at 2:30 p.m. Tuesday Nov. 19.

The school district said Ayoub’s visit will include time with staff, students, alumni, and local leaders.