BELDING — Students at Belding High School thought the assembly they were attending Friday morning was just to hear about new electives to be available to them in the fall.
And they did hear about that from Principal Michael Ostrander. He explained to students the way they will sign up for classes for next year and described the advanced placement (AP) classes and high interest electives being added to the curriculum.
But just before they were dismissed from the assembly, Ostrander announced a “special guest,” and out came the reveal of the school district’s new mascot from stage right — the Belding Black Knights.
The mascot is pending approval from the Belding Area Schools Board of Education at the upcoming March 20 board meeting, as the school district has been working to establish a new mascot since the Board voted unanimously in December to drop the school district’s former mascot, the Redskins.
But Ostrander told The Daily News he anticipates the board will approve the choice.
The mascot was revealed in a full costume, worn by Superintendent Brent Noskey at the assembly. It was on loan to the district and will not be the final costume for the mascot.
The next step after board approval of the mascot, according to Ostrander, will be to collect submissions of potential artwork for the mascot.
“I’ll put together kind of a spec sheet of what we want in terms of primary logos, secondary logos, fonts and we’ll get that out. I think we have some art students who want to take a run at it,” he said. “There are graphic designers out there. I’ve had contact with some already, whatever (was chosen) they want to give it a shot.”
During the assembly, Ostrander read aloud a notice to parents and community members about the origins of the Black Knight, which he stated is a symbol for “chivalry, honor, loyalty and courage.”
According to the letter, “the Black Knight sought no glory, wanted no recognition, and desired no payment for his heroic feats.
“Appearing in dark armor, the Black Knight traveled from faraway lands to fight any foe, save any subject, and help any homeless,” the letter continued. “The combined traits of medieval knights and the Black Knights of stories long-told illustrate qualities that people young and old would aspire to reach today. As Belding Area Schools moves into a bold new tradition and identity, it is easy to see how the characteristics of the Black Knight fit the ideals held in high regard by our students and community.”
Noskey said some people have expressed concern about the Black Knight because they are worried there would be backlash over perceived ties to racism.
“The Army (United States Military Academy at West Point) has used the Black Knight as their logo. There’s nothing racist about it,” Noskey said.
Noskey said there have also been questions about if the mascot will feature a sword in the knight’s hand. Those sorts of details will be sorted out as artwork submissions for logos are submitted and reviewed.
Ostrander said approximately 4,000 responses were received in a community survey to determine the new mascot.
With the top three choices for the new mascot being Bengals, Bruins and Black Knights, Ostrander said the latter was the undisputed top choice among the students, as well as members of the community.
“We feel good about it,” Ostrander said. “(I think it’s pretty clear) that we’re focused on the most honorable and desirable traits of the medieval knights and people who represented the best of their community and their people. I think with that as our focus there’s not a concern we’re going to be misrepresenting anything or using in a racial tone. There’s no race involved in this at all.”