Unfinished bulletin board makes waves in Texas City

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Some parents are upset over the resemblance a Levi Fry Intermediate School bulletin board appears to bear to a Black Power symbol.

A bulletin board at a Texas City school is stirring up controversy among some parents. The picture was taken inside Levi Fry Intermediate School and shows a tree with a fist in the trunk, which some people interpret as a Black Power symbol. However, the district says that's not the intent of the display and it stands behind the overall message.

Diana Calhoun posted the picture on Facebook, asking her friends what they saw.

"I did have one person who said to me it looks like an innocent gesture of power and growth in our students. Of course someone else commented to that commenter and said looks like black power to me," she said, while reading the comments on her Facebook page.

She agrees that it appears to be a Black Power image, which she believes is a message that should be kept out of the classroom. Calhoun explained it's not a view she wants pushed on her children.

"I do have one daughter who is Hispanic and one daughter who is white and I don't want them to not be able to identify with each other," she said.

Some people said the bulletin board image reminded them of a Black Power image found online and on Pinterest, which shows a fist in a tree trunk.

A Texas City Independent School District spokesperson said the initial photo was taken on Meet the Teacher night when the bulletin board was incomplete. She gave Eyewitness News a photo of the display with the words "Your Words Have Power," which were added Monday.

"The intent was good. We believe it was good. It was a good message, one that was educationally sound that 5th and 6th graders need to know," Melissa Tortorici explained.

She said the leaves have empowering quotes and phrases like "I am awesome. I am present to learn." The district does not believe the display was a Black Power message.

"The fist is also used to display strength, which is what the tree displayed. The tree is very strong has deep roots and lots of branches," she said. The fist was brown because tree trunks are brown, she explained.

Eyewitness News asked other parents what they thought about the picture.

"I don't see anything offensive about it. It's a family tree," mother Leticia Garcia said.

"It looks a little racist to me. It's a black fist up in the air," said one woman who did not want to give her name.

"It's a powerful, powerful tree that brings a lot of people together," Roshell Shinette said.

The teacher who created the display is not in trouble, but the fist part of the trunk is being removed so it won't overshadow the overall message, Tortorici said.
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