Kingston GOP drops support for candidate who criticized Native American mural

Jean Jacobs

Kingston Republicans have severed ties with a county legislature candidate who criticized a mural depicting Native Americans for sending a potentially divisive “ethnic message,” rather than celebrating Kingston’s “original heritage.”

Last week, Jean Jacobs, Republican candidate for the District 6 legislative seat in the City of Kingston, said she was offended by depictions of Native Americans on a mural put up at the YMCA as part of the O+ Festival.

“I think it divides the community,” said Jacobs. “It sends an ethnic message. Why did [the artist] come up with the idea — on the YMCA — to paint Indians. What does that signify?”

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Jacobs also critiqued the artist’s depiction of the Native Americans as too “dark.”

“It was supposed to be Indian, but it didn’t look Indian,” said Jacobs. “Maybe a black Indian.”

Fallout from Jacobs’ comments was swift, and overwhelmingly negative. As hundreds of comments flooded social media calling the legislative candidates remarks racist, members of the City of Kingston Republican Committee’s campaign committee scrambled to contain the damage.

By Wednesday morning, the committee had voted to drop all support for Jacobs in the run-up to next month’s election. Campaign Committee Chairman Jerry Brown said that the committee would withhold financial support and members would not make phone calls or do door-to-door campaigning on Jacobs’ behalf. Brown added that Jacobs would not be invited to committee strategy sessions or other events.

“We decided to separate ourselves from her completely. We decided that would be the best thing for ourselves and our candidates,” said Brown. “Her views are her own and have nothing to do with us.”

The rebuke from party leaders could bring an end to Jacobs’ long tenure on the fringes of the city’s political scene. In the early 2000s, Jacobs served as president of the Kingston Board of Education, where she led a controversial effort to dismiss a newly hired school superintendent. Later she served as head of the Kingston Republican Committee, mounted unsuccessful runs for Common Council and the GOP nomination for mayor and served as a library trustee.

Jacobs, meanwhile, has not backed off of her original comments. Shortly after the story describing her remarks went online on Tuesday, Jacobs shared it on her campaign Facebook page under the title “Read my thoughts on the O+ festival.” The post remained up past midnight Tuesday before being taken down sometime overnight. In a Facebook message to a reporter late Tuesday night, Jacobs requested that editors remove certain comments on Ulster Publishing’s website and social media pages, but made no other comment about the piece.

On Wednesday morning, Mayor Steve Noble called Jacobs statements “concerning.”

“I think the reason Kingston is doing so well is because of our diversity,” said Noble. “I think the O+ Festival and the murals represent the best of what the city is — safe, welcoming and inclusive.”

There are 31 comments

  1. Kingston Patriot

    Jean still has plenty of support from “the real Kingston”. the hardworking TAXpayers, not the new york city artists who do nothing for our city, and our so called mayor and his “Sanctuary City”. (Ha!) Big surprise to come in the elections, will be like “Brexit” and the “2016 Election”. fake news wont cover it of course,

    1. Peter Lasburger

      Wow… All I can say is it’s nice when the racists reveal themselves, isn’t it? I can barely read your screed but I can read between the lines… your time is coming to an end. I could write more but I won’t waste my time.

      1. Kingston Patriot

        yeah well i could give a flying you-know-what about your grades on my comment. the fact is our President (thats right hes your president too, like it or not!) is restoring pride for this country and it’s driving you libs crazy!!!! and here in kingston the jobs continue to leave as the taxes go sky high (i.e. corruption etc.) and now they charge rediculous prices for the few remaining people just to park so they have more money for what? sanctuary city?

        1. Doc Rostock

          You wouldn’t be so concerned about the prices if you worked harder and weren’t a loser who has to whine about how he can’t afford things. SAD!

    2. History Buff

      Kingston Patriot! You have that correct! The problem with this O Positive Festival is that artists come in from outside the area and paint whatever they want and it is a permanent mark. First of all, this area is filled with incredible artists who might welcome the opportunity to have such a huge canvas. The City of Kingston is rich with its history in terms of our connection to fighting the British (note this coming weekends major draw for tourism) and being the First Capitol of the state. There should be a diverse committee that establishes the guidelines for these murals in keeping with this local history. It is pretty clear that Mr. Smith used supposed quotes from Ms. Jacobs conversation that would fit his own political agenda. The cowards on the campaign committee should be ashamed of themselves. This woman is no more a racists than Harvey WEinstein is a saint! #FAKENEWS

  2. darla

    well why IS there indians on the mural? many people ask themselves the same thing. Do u want all names of people who ask that question so u can ruin their lives too? bunch of cowards

    1. Peter Lasburger

      My god, can’t any of the critics use proper English? It’s “why ARE there indians” (your word). There’s a direct correlation between the intelligence revealed in a commenter’s inability to write clearly and properly and the degree of ignorance on display regarding other cultures.

      And why would having their names ruin their lives? Because their opinions are so ignorant that their identities need to be kept secret, lest the world know who they really are and treat them appropriately, thereby ruining their lives? Who’s the coward?

    2. Aphrodite

      First, that would be: “Well, (comma) why ARE (correct tense) there Indians (capitalized) on the mural?”
      (That’s been pretty well answered in the comments in the main story about Ms. Jacobs – take a peek.)

      Next, yes – I’d probably like to know who else is an offended bigot so I can make sure none of them ever accede to a role where they could possibly end up making decisions on my behalf.

      1. GoodGodess

        I was led to this article having grown up a town or two away. I’m writing a fictional book about a fictional town after having moved away from suburban New York and to Berkeley California. There are times I think my fictional account may be too harsh about the cluelessness of people’s bigotry. Sometimes I think I’m just having an angry young adults memories and surely things have changed. Then I read stuff like this and say “Nope, here we still are. Maybe I’m not making them ignorant enough.”

        What actually bothers me more is the “nice” people. Yes, a nice mom and person can also be a racist and ignorant whether they “mean to” or not. You can be this woman’s friend, and I have no problem if you continued to be DESPITE this, but to defend her actions just because you know she’s “nice” speaks volumes. Its what they and others do when someone calls them out on something that says so much too. When you double down on a statement and say this person can’t face consequences because they are “nice” what you are really saying is you don’t care about anyone but the people you know. Imagine if someone painted a mural of her and someone said “No, this divides the town because she’s too old, rich, white, trying to look like a rich Stevie Knicks and failing.”
        Native Americans lived and still live in your town, black people do too saying they aren’t part of it because they don’t look like you is offensive.

  3. Rachel Sun, Lifelong Ulster County Constituent.

    Let us not forget the story of Kingston is one which was the first capitol of a state in a country founded on genocide of the very people this woman feels need be erased.

    The original people of this land are here. Somehow under the duress of western progress, the people of this land continue to be a very real part of the linear timeline of how we got to where we stand.

    And as we see here, the continued move for erasure of those truths is real.

  4. Mike Haggerty

    Yes we took this nation from the Indians, they are part of the heritage and history of our nation. Don’t understand the folks that that want to take that away by erasing these paintings, changing team sports names, etc. This is nothing to do with race or politics, it’s everything to do with history and respect of how we got here. Leave it alone liberals. You just do not get it!

    1. Aphrodite

      And you don’t have a grasp on how things work.

      White Europeans decimated entire nations with their diseases, then raped and pillaged the ones who lived, and then destroyed entire cultures.

      It’s not about liberalism or frigging right wing lunatics. It’s about respect for the people who were here before us.

      If anyone doesn’t ‘get it’, it’s the delusional 32% and shrinking who still believe Trump is the Messiah.

      The liberals are the ones who educated themselves, that’s just too bad for the people like you. In the end, knowledge prevails.

  5. Christine Boyer

    “Restore Kingston Pride” and “Make America Great Again” are nothing more than euphemisms for making this country only about the white, Christian settlers who stole this land out from the indigenous people, and helped to force African men and women to be here against their will as slaves. Fast forward to the present day, it is the descendants of all these people that make Kingston what it is, and make the United States great already. We all have made great strides in accepting one another, and being able to coexist as human beings, but we still have a LONG way to go. These slogans do nothing to help. Racism is never the answer, no matter how sugarcoated it is. We need to celebrate all the cultures and ethnicities that make this nation.

  6. Sally Grossman

    Might be that it is a bad painting, stylized look of what Indians? Our Mohawks? Boo Sanctuary cities. Support indigenous people who are already here not illegals.

  7. RealNewsIsNotTrumpViews

    Hope you bigots in comments and maga morons who support Breitbart which was Copy edited by known Nazis realize most of the towns around here have Native American names. Calling something “ethnic” is racist and centers white experience. Eat a thousand Ds and enjoy trumps continued failure.

  8. henry cavanagh

    Apparently the mural in question IS divisive, as proven by the response. But it only provokes long-held attitudes on either side, nothing new. What is interesting is that some writers are DIVIDED within themselves….Haggerty,/Grossman; getting some things right, then mixing in a canned anti-liberal mini-rant. What’s troubling me is the perpetuation of the image of a Western Plains Indian, rather than the historically correct local North-West coastal type. (Less interesting, but still….).
    Back during the henry Hudson celebrations, the ‘liberal’ in me was at pains to try to incorporate local Original Peoples into the ‘celebration’…bonfires and pow-wows on Kingston beach, lectures on Indian culture, food etc. My liberal desire for inclusiveness got a big ‘NO,THANK YOU’…..and ‘leave us out of any Columbus day plans as well’. Even good intentions can perpetuate unwanted presumptions. Delicacy and thoughtfulness is required. Judging by her war-paint, Ms. Jacobs is just trying to identify with Original Peoples….not wanting their image used in a presumed liberal, outsider attempt to divide Kingstonians. On the other side, presumed liberal outsider mural painters, simpatico with our local Indians, get it wrong too. As usual, the Natives are caught in the middle, as pawns to advance causes not their own.

  9. Zeus Poseidon

    I am shocked, saddened and appalled by the some of the comments made by many of my fellow democrats on this website as well as on the Kingston Times Facebook page. I have known Jean my entire life and grew up in Kingston and if you ever got to know her for 5 minutes, you would know there isn’t a racist bone in her body and everything she does is out of love for all of God’s creatures, both people and animals. She is a wonderful mother, grandmother, great grandmother and friend, and in the 30+ years that I have known her, I have never heard her even elude to anything remotely racist or hateful against any person of this community. Jean’s family is one of acceptance, is very diverse and multicultural. And since it appears so many people seemed to have dug deep on her personal Facebook page, you would have seen that. Take a look at all of her posts, 99% of them are filled with love for her family, friends and her fellow human being.

    To see people comment on the appearance of a 73 year old woman in the way they have, comparing her to hideous movie characters, calling her ugly, calling her a c*nt, witch, b*tch, and countless additional examples, is far more representative of evil and intolerance than the comments in the story. She has committed no crime here, she isn’t the best spoken or most articulate and should be better educated on some issues, but I sincerely believe the words quoted were chosen by the journalist in order to vilify her. I assume if he is a decent journalist, he has some audio/recordings of what actually happened. Would be nice to see that. I know for a fact if we were all there to witness that conversation between Jean, the artist and the journalist we would all be walking away with a much different take of what actually happened.

    If you look at her Facebook post from the previous week, there was a local discussion on her page that discussed the murals in length and none of that discussion sounded like what is being presented here by the journalist. To me, it looked like a civil discussion among other local community republicans on her own Facebook page. You can’t go a minute on Facebook these days without seeing someone from both sides being political about something, so this conversation appeared to be a normal discussion by Republican Kingstonians.

    Based on that conversation, it looks like the decisions of these murals were made by a limited number of people without much community input. She and all of Kingston’s citizens should be involved in the selection of these murals. Maybe discuss what would best encapsulates Kingston in artistic form. Is an artist from Brooklyn, who is no doubt talented, the best choice to decorate Kingston? Does he understand what makes Kingston unique? With a growing arts community, why not go with someone local? Questions that can certainly be asked and debated in a civil way, and that is what I firmly believe was Jean’s issue with the situation and her entire position. Living there for more than 70 years, her ideas should count for something, and Kingston is a city with many different historical elements to choose from. I’ve been around the world and whenever I ask someone if they know about Kingston, NY, the majority know the city for its history, early war relevance, being the first Capital, etc.

    Kingston is a small town, if you grew up there, you would run into someone you know just around every corner. In the comments sections on both Facebook and the Kingston Times pages, many of the names strongly criticizing Jacobs are not only from outside her jurisdiction, but many from outside both Kingston and NY State altogether. I’ve never used the word troll in my life, but some people commenting are the vilest of trolls, who think they are so righteous but are they are the exact opposite. Makes me sick to my stomach to be on the same team as you.

    No doubt the words she chose were not the best, I simply believe part of that is her ignorance, not being accustomed to giving interviews, living her entire life in a small town, being strong on certain topics in Kingston like taxes, animal safety, and growing business, and maybe being a bit weak at articulating on some emerging social issues. We are all living in a new world with a very volatile President who is trying to divide us further, so people in general, evidenced not only by Jean but by many of the derogatory comments made by you all towards her, are both saying and doing so many wrong things to each other these days. It’s certainly a confusing time in our country.

    So as democrats, who pride themselves on being so tolerant, take a second to look at the big picture. Refrain from cursing at a woman I have never heard curse or use a racial slur in her life. This is a small town elderly woman, who is simply running on a Republican platform for a low level local office in her community because she loves genuinely loves her hometown. She’s not a seasoned politician, or our President, and doing the divisive things they say and do on a larger scale every day. At the end of the day, she is criticizing art on a wall in the small town of Kingston, NY for a position she was unlikely to win over the incumbent, all while there are mass shootings, devastation left by hurricanes and wild fires, and people overdosing on opioids in record numbers. Better to keep our eye on the ball.

    People from the local community or who are her constituents, I absolutely believe they have the right to criticize her comments, but when people from outside the community with no dog in the fight destroy her character, appearance, hiding behind their keyboard is something I simply cannot fathom. You are an embarrassment to the party I strongly support and have worked all my life in. She’s a wonderful woman who said some wrong things at the wrong time. But disgusting people were so ready to pounce on her and essentially ruin her reputation and life for the time being because she had an opinion that was different than yours. Hope you feel proud of yourselves.

  10. Stand tall

    I concur. Jean Jacobs is a loving mom, grandmother, great-grandmother and her thoughts were twisted by this reporter in order to create a controversy for the weak minded and anger filled, ready to pounce with unbelievable venom. Jean tried to make a great point….that there should be input on these enormous murals that don’t have anything to do with the rich history here. They simply don’t. (And the mural on the Y looks more like a cartoon of Native Indians than reality. Didn’t the Onteora district fight to get rid of that?) That was clear when I milled the crowd at the Burning of Kingston and asked various tourists what their thoughts were on the murals that loom on the many buildings near Crown St. The majority said they felt they “didn’t fit in” with the historical nature of our city. So, Aphrodite, you may live here….but I can assure you, your vile nastiness of those in your party will never win over good. Never. If you can look in the mirror at the end of the day and feel proud of yourself, then my prayers are with you, because You are and NEVER will be the final judge!

    1. Aphrodite

      I can certainly feel proud looking in the mirror when I call out bigot for being a bigot – or another for defending that bigot.

      “Your party will never win over the good?” How do you know what my political affiliation is – and moreover, what makes you think party affiliation has anything to do with calling out an out-of-touch candidate who isn’t smart enough to keep her stupidity to herself?

      Go peddle your faux rage elsewhere.

  11. JamaicaonHudson

    Recently, statements were made regarding numerous murals depicting Indigenous people painted on some of Kingston’s buildings. Jean Jacobs, a seemingly perennial fixture in the local (wannabe) politician circuit, made disparaging remarks about one particular mural painted by a “black gentleman from Brooklyn”. Apparently, Ms. Jacobs (who wants to make it known she’s “not a racist”) was offended by the “dark complexion” of the “Indians” depicted in the mural, and questioned the “black gentleman” as to why he was painting it? Upon speaking with him, she discovered that the “black gentleman” was from Brooklyn and that the “Indians” depicted were a nod to part of his heritage. Apparently, this caused even more puzzlement/chagrin on Ms. Jacobs’s part, as she promptly took to Facebook to question why the murals were allowed “without consent”. As one can assume these artists were not scaling buildings unbeknownst to the owners, she seems to indicate that the consent they received was inadequate. However, as both the city and buildings owners were aware, I’m not sure who else’s consent would’ve been required? Perhaps the construction workers who constructed the building, or random passersby? “They” (whoever they are) could’ve asked my consent—but, as it’s not my building, I would’ve simply directed “them” (back) to the owner/s…

    In anycase, Ms. Jacobs went on to voice an even more (in my opinion) odd complaint: that the murals depicting “dark- complexioned” Indigenous people shouldn’t have been allowed as they weren’t a part of Kingston’s “original heritage”. The problem is Indigenous people, many of whom (absent Disney-fied elements of miscegenation) were/are of “dark-complexion”, were/are/always will be the original inhabitants of this land. As such, they are a part of our collective history. Furthermore, Ms. Jacobs has stated that she “values her history here” and that she “adores the old buildings and heritage”, however she seems oblivious to the fact that the city’s history didn’t begin in “1891” (when her family arrived). Frankly, it began well before 1777—or even 1648…

    A little history lesson: Settlement here spans hundreds (perhaps thousands) of years, encompassing many different eras. Kingston was once Wiltywck, and Wiltwyck originally Atkarkarton/Atharhacton (or Atukabaten). The place (most likely) known as “Deer (or Stag) Hill” by local Native American tribes, was transformed into Wiltwyck, or ‘Wild Place’, by the Dutch; and later renamed “Kingston” by the British. The Esopus Wars, perpetrated against the Waranawankongs and instigated by Dutch, were a result of intrusion into Atharhacton. The taking of land (and massacre of the “Esopus”) resulted in Wiltwyck being burned to the ground. Ironically, more than one-hundred years to the day, the rebuilt “Kingston” suffered the same fate (this time at the hands of British forces). Flash forward two-hundred years to the 1960’s, and Kingston was once again decimated—this time by Americans (city planners wielding their tool of choice, “urban renewal”). In each one of these eras, there was a period of exponential growth followed by a catastrophic event which transformed the city—and, more interestingly, after which the city rebuilt.

    The history here is long, contributing to both a diverse and complicated dynamic: people of African ancestry who bear the names of the old Dutch and French Huguenot land (and slave) owning families (and whose lineage pre-dates the American Revolution); people with both Native and colonial-American bloodlines; new immigrants working for the progeny of the older-generation Italian and Irish immigrants (whose parents came to Kingston to work in the brickyards); ties to the subjugated and the subjugators…This long and complex history, I believe, facilitated in creating historical figures like Isabella Baumfree/Sojourner Truth; inspired artists and designers like Olmstead, Vaux and, Hudson River School painter, Jervis McEntee; gave rise to many industry giants (from Newark Lime& Cement to IBM); and politicians instrumental in this country’s founding. In short, this little ’burg, has a huge imprint (simultaneously integral to the Core and the Periphery). I would argue that the (strangely beautiful) mural of Artemis rising from the quarries (which Ms. Jacobs made no objection to in her post), doesn’t do this place justice.

    The point to all this is that “Kingston” isn’t monolithic. Its history is long, diverse and (above all) complicated. A person (or group of people) that want to be duly elected officials, are beholden to the public. They are not supposed to, under the guise of “restoring pride”, sow seeds of resentment within one segment of the population in an effort to commandeer power. Neither is a party meant foist gentrification schemes benefiting land speculators onto the citizenry. The idea of a political party should be to ensure the people’s will is represented within our political system. The fact that Ms. Jacobs (and those like her) have no concept of this is, quite frankly, concerning.

    My hope for Kingston is that someone rational (and good) who loves (and embraces our shared) history will navigate through the murky, choppy waters between the self-interested and the nefarious, and guide us to where we need to be. Regardless of hues,whoever does that will, at the very least, have earned a mural…

  12. steven crow messenger

    For those uneducated buffoons who don’t know american history, let quote what Varazzano saw when he came to this land in 1524.
    “They are dark in color, not unlike the Ethiopians, with thick black hair, not very long, tied back behind the head like a small tail. As for the physique of these men, they are well proportioned, of medium height, a little taller than we are. They have broad chests, strong arms, and the legs and other parts of the body are well composed. There is nothing else, except that they tend to be rather broad in the face: but not all, for we saw many with angular faces. They have big black eyes, and an attentive and open look. They are not very strong, but they have a sharp cunning, and are agile and swift runners. From what we could tell from observation, in the last two respects they resemble the Orientals, particularly those from the farthest Sinarian regions. ”
    ~second voyage of Giovanni Varizzano to the new world.

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