to Hate Graffiti in
Unity in the Community ~ April 17, 2007
Unity and other community members hastily organized a positive and affirming community response to hate graffiti this past April 13th. Tapping many community resources, we worked with neighbors to host an event to clean up the graffiti and affirm our that community values diversity and stands united against hate.
April 9th, residents on
On the 11th, UITC brought together some of its members, and invited Art Constantino, Evergreen State College Vice President of Student Affairs and Ed Sorger, the Evergreen campus police chief to plan an immediate response effort. Marc Brenman, the Executive Director and Kathy Baros Friedt the Chair respectively of Washington State Human Rights Commission hosted the meeting. Lydell Spry, whose story had been highlighted in The Olympian also attended to share his story. His was the vehicle had racist graffiti.
Goals for response to the neighborhoods were two:
Lydell 's guidance, we planned for a clean up and community event in the
neighborhood mid-day on April 13th. The plan was clean-up paired with
on-the-spot community meeting to be held in Lydell's garage, which offered
protection from the rain. Ruth Elder, staff to the Thurston Council on Cultural
Diversity, put together 200 florescent green flyers for hand delivery on
Thursday, announcing to the residents, plans for the Friday gathering.
Other participants included Marc Brenman, Executive Director of the Washington Human Rights Commission, Art Constantino, the Evergreen State College Vice President of Student Affairs and Ed Sorger Evergreen State College Chief of Campus Police, and Tom Carr of Thomas Carr Painting.
heard from Lydell Spry, Mrs. Kaminda (whose white van was sprayed with
a swastika and the word "skin"), and other neighbors about how these acts of
graffiti had been shocking/horrible/mortifying/embarrassing. One woman of color
spoke out that she had experienced nothing by support from this neighborhood at
a time she had been ill and she wanted the world to know this was not a racist
neighborhood. Susie described what it was like to walk out her door in the
morning and see the racist comment on Lydell's van. Lydell spoke about the need
to continue to work with youth so that they have positive experiences and
develop self-confidence. Anyone who wanted to support the boxing academy could
donate through Washington State Employees Credit Union, under Police Athletic
League. Many comments were made by neighbors appreciating the UITC response.
Though it had rained hard prior to and after the gathering, it did not rain during the event!
Stars of the day were Art Constantino, Ed Sorger, and Tom Carr who scoped out the damage, made trips to Home Depot and spent the afternoon doing graffiti clean up. They were selfless and cheerful!
This event was covered by KIRO 7 TV news and was previewed by the Olympian. The participants all carried their experiences with them to share the value of this response word of mouth.
Perhaps the greatest impact was on the neighborhood children who saw both the ugliness of the graffiti as well as the beauty of an affirming community response.
While the criminal justice system will deal with the juvenile(s) who committed this graffiti, it is up to the community to help repair the social fabric that is torn when hate speech or other hate activity occurs. Graffiti can be erased, the fear that it causes takes more time to heal. Our presence and our compassion are essential to rebuilding faith that our community honors and celebrates diversity.This rapid response once again shows the value of people coming together to support Unity in the Community as the best way to confront hate.
Many folks came together quickly, worked seamlessly and mobilized a remarkable show of support for the neighborhood. Great job everyone!
PS – As always, there is more to say and do. We will host a meeting on May 30th to firm up our rapid response protocol. Alice Curtis, Lynn Grotsky, Kathy Baros Friedt and Barb Gross will work up proposal to create an even more effective means of rapid response that engages the broadest segments of our community.
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