Mad River Union
HUMBOLDT – A woman holding a racist sign at an anti-masking protest at the Humboldt County Courthouse isn't affiliated with Arcata's Northcoast Preparatory Academy (NPA), according to the Humboldt County Office of Education (HCOE).
The photo, originally posted on Kym Kemp's Redheaded Blackbelt website, shows Gretha Stenger unmasked and holding a protest sign mounted on a box lid that reads, "MUZZLES ARE FOR DOGS AND SLAVES I AM A FREE HUMAN BEING." The same sign was also displayed by a woman named Larkin Small.
The sign uses an illustration of Escrava Anastacia, a widely venerated Brazilian slave of African descent who is shown wearing an iron collar and muzzle.
On going viral, links were found to Stenger's previous affiliation with NPA as a performing arts teacher. Many social media commenters then lambasted the school by way of guilt by association.
This prompted a Monday press advisory by HCOE Director of Communication Jenny Bowen:
"Please note that the photo circulating is NOT a current employee of North Coast Preparatory Academy and not connected to Humboldt County Office of Education," Bowen said. "We would appreciate you correcting any inaccurate coverage that may have unintentionally been false."
Stenger declined comment on the matter, which has gained national attention. However, she told the Eureka Times-Standard newspaper:
“Holding that sign up at the lockdown protest was a grave mistake and I ask forgiveness from all those who I have caused pain. As I had no sign of my own, it was handed to me by another protester and a photographer took the picture before I considered the racist implications. My intent was to take a stand for the freedom of all human persons and I mistakenly held a sign that conveyed the opposite. Please know that I respect the dignity of all people and I sincerely regret any suffering it has caused.”