The college town of Davis, Calif. won't let three recent hate incidents divide them. Instead, they are using the opportunity to unite.
The community is directing its energy creatively, literally coming together to produce a video collage titled "Speak Out for Tolerance" in response to the recent city hate incidents.
In the last month, a hangman's noose was discovered suspending from a football field goal post at Davis High School; a swastika and the N-word was painted on a freeway underpass; and another swastika was found burned into a picnic table at Holmes Junior High School.
These incidents are reminiscent of a rash of hateful graffiti seven years ago that targeted the junior high school, two local churches and an elementary school.
"For this city, this is not a fine moment," Mayor Joe Krovoza said at a June 20 community meeting. "The response needs to be clear, immediate; we need to send the signal that it's not okay. One segment of our community affects the whole community."
Davis' Human Relations Commission hopes that their creative response, rather than the incidents, will define the community, according to HRC Vice-Chair Craig Blomberg. The commission is collaborating with Davis Media Access, the city’s media center, to produce the “Speak Out for Tolerance” video collage that will feature Davis residents.
Speak Out for Tolerance
Posed with the question “What does tolerance mean to you?”, Davis community members come forward bearing answers.
Welcoming community members of all ages, the “Speak Out for Tolerance” video project brings the community together, piecing together individual recordings of their thoughts on tolerance, the recent incidents, and diversity and discrimination in Davis.
Participants, both individually and in groups, have been volunteering their voices for the cameras in brief, one to two sentence clips, at the media center and the Davis Farmer’s Market in July.
According to an article on Davis Patch, the completed video will broadcast on educational television channel DCTV and radio station, KDRT 95.7FM. The production will also be available on the DMA website.
"We have really tried to turn these unfortunate incidents into an opportunity for greater dialogue and inclusiveness, so that we will be recognized for our values of friendship, rather than hate," Blomberg said.
In addition to the video project, the community has provided forums to discuss the hate incidents.
Following the noose discovery, Davis parent and pediatrician Jann Murray-Garcia organized a meeting at Davis High School, bringing together about 50 community members, public officials, educators, students and parents to discuss the incident and ways to respond.
The community has also expressed thoughts through several letters to the editor, opinion-editorial pieces and follow-up articles in the local newspaper, Davis Enterprise. Behind the scenes, Greenwald understands high school students have come together through various Facebook discussions.
"Leaders in the community came out and expressed a unified position," HRC Commissioner David Greenwald said. "It was a diverse group, speaking out against hate crimes and the impact, with a lot of multi-racial, multi-ethnic young people and community members."
In a Davis Enterprise column the following week, Murray-Garcia also provided a list of talking points and resources for Davis residents, in hopes of inspiring a unified response.
“There should never be any doubt that the right thing to do is get the word out that this has happened,” Murray-Garcia said at the community meeting. “Our biggest enemy is complacency.”
The Davis City Council and Human Relations Commission dedicated agenda items to developing hate crime awareness. The June 28 commission meeting discussed improving communications between the city and its citizens during future hate incidents. Greenwald proposed organizing a community outreach event to take place in the next year, comprised of panel and youth discussions, as well as neighborhood events.
"The community really did what needed to be done to send a quick message to say: There is history behind this, and it has a detrimental impact on the public,” Greenwald said. “I think this was about the right response, and anything that happens after that really falls into the realm of law enforcement—who did it and why—and then after we figure out those answers, we’ll know what the next step is.”