ALBANY – With two short films that spurred a dialogue about the fight against extremism, United Against Hate Week commenced on the local level on Sunday, November 17th. About 30 local residents and leaders attended the community event at Belmont Village to show their support for the victims of hate crimes.
Before the feature presentation of her 16-min film “Not in Our Town: Manhattan Beach,” Director Patrice O’Neill explained that United Against Hate Week is more than a week, it’s a movement. Over the 20 years they’d filmed the aftermath of extremist violence, she said, they’d learned some important lessons.
“Telling the story, not just of the hate that is present in this country and that has plagued many communities, but the story of what people can do about it. That is really the message of ‘Not in Our Town’ and that is the message of United Against Hate Week,” O’Neill said.“We can’t stand by and let hate happen; we have to do something.”
The evening of short documentaries and dialogue began with “Summer of Hate,” which centered on the three synagogues that were firebombed within a 45-min time span in July, 1999 in Sacramento. The account also tied in the anti-gay double homicide in Redding that soon followed the attacks on the synagogues. The murders were committed by the same white nationalist brothers who set fires to the synagogues in Sacramento.
The film focused on the commitment of the two cities to stand with Jewish and Gay community members and to safeguard them in the wake of the hate crimes. In Sacramento, the local newspaper promoted the hanging of signs “United We Stand” in homes and storefronts, and an estimated 4,000 residents attended a unity rally.
After the film’s showing, when O’Neill invited audience members to share their thoughts, attendees talked about their concern for their own safety as members of historically targeted groups. They also said they were impressed that 10,000 “United We Stand” signs were hung in Sacramento in solidarity with the victims.
The feature film of the evening “Not in Our Town: Manhattan Beach” was then presented, which captured a community coming together to learn how to support a vulnerable family during a hate-crime investigation.
When the audience was asked by the filmmaker if the story resonated with them, Albany School Board member Clementina Duron spoke up. She said the film reminded her of Albany, in the sense that in her city, there was also a feeling that these kinds of hate-fueled incidents just don’t happen. She said this was true despite the fact that a disturbing event occurred on the social media platform Instagram targeting high school students years ago. She said there was a need to remain attuned to the needs of children at the high school.
A few other audience members shared their views about the importance of believing victims, creating an inclusive community, and bridging cultural divisions.
“It’s about being healthy communities. If we can take one week each year to amplify the need for this work, and people in the community take on this work all year long, that’s what we want to have happen,” said Jacquelyn McCormick, Chief of Staff to Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin, at the close of the evening.
In order to actively discourage and keep the door closed to hate crimes, we need an ongoing effort, she continued. “We want to build that kind of base and infrastructure in our communities so it just doesn’t happen; it has less opportunity to happen.”
The City of Albany in partnership with the Albany Unified School District and the League of Women Voters, Berkeley, Albany, and Emeryville will be participating in United Against Hate Week (Nov. 17-23, 2019).
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