Across the country, there have been constant protests and marches against various issues, but one common thread that’s shared is the demonstration of unity through the iconic posters created by Shepard Fairey, the artist behind former president Barack Obama’s “Hope” poster.
Despite the overwhelming acceptance of the recent images, administrators at Westminster High School in Maryland have banned teachers from displaying them in classrooms.
But students have come up with their own idea to fight back.
Sarah Wack, a 2012 graduate of the high school, started a GoFundMe campaign to raise $4,000 to buy t-shirts with the powerful images on them. Students plan on wearing the t-shirts to show their unity in a demonstration planned for March 1.
Wack wrote on the GoFundMe campaign page, that has since stopped accepting donations:
"Westminster students decided that they would wear shirts with the ‘banned’ poster image to show solidarity with their classmates and respected teachers."
After only three days, the goal was surpassed. In total, they raised over $5,000.
The three posters are part of a series called “We the People.”
The series includes 18 artists and it was commissioned by the nonprofit Amplifier Foundation. The images at the center of the ban are of three women. In one, a proud Latina looks into the distance with a flower in her wavy hair. The poster reads, “We the people defend dignity.”
In another, a Muslim woman wears the American flag as a hijab and stares directly at the viewer. The poster reads, “We the people are greater than fear." In the last one, a young African-American girl looks thoughtful. The poster reads, “We the people protect each other.”
The demonstration came about after a staff member at the mostly white school complained about the posters being displayed in classrooms. But they were soon allowed to go back up only to be permanently banned because of the political dialogue they created. A school spokesperson told The Huffington Post that the posters are “political” and “anti-Trump.”
Steven Johnson, the county’s assistant superintendent for instruction, compared the three posters to a controversial image. He said:
"The Confederate flag in and of itself has no image of slavery or hatred or oppression, but it’s symbolic of that. These posters have absolutely no mention of Trump or any other political issue ― it’s the symbolism of what they were representing. They were carried in these protests."
The artist defended her artwork’s message:
"...equality, respect, and religious freedom are unassailable American values and non-partisan. I find it very disturbing that someone could find those ideas specifically, and by extension inclusion in general, to be partisan or problematic. Anyone who believes that these messages are dangerous or divisive needs to check themselves."
The initial purpose for the posters was to show diversity and students understand this. High schoolers, like senior Delaney McKelvie, hope to promote this message. “I’m wearing the shirt to school to stand by those affected by the posters being taken down,” she said to The Huffington Post. “I also hope to get the message across that promoting diversity should be commonplace.”
With enough funds raised, the t-shirts are in the process of being ordered and made.
A meeting about the posters has been scheduled by the school board, which also plans to meet with legal counsel on February 22, to talk about the First Amendment rights in a school setting. The graduate student who began this movement said the leftover balance of the GoFundMe donations will be given to the Amplifier Foundation.