After a hate incident, Fairview Park spreads a message of inclusion
The Howery family, like many Americans, celebrated Labor Day with a picnic in the yard of their house in Fairview Park, a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio. But the next morning, when the Howerys, who are African American, sent their daughters outside to look for a set of keys lost the day before, they found a noose hanging from a tree with a note that threatened, “Get the [expletive] out. Aryan Knights of Fairview Park.”
Police are cooperating with FBI agents who are investigating the incident as a crime of ethnic intimidation.
When Pastor Dan Sewell heard about the incident, he was shocked. “It obviously hit me very hard, because I know that that is not the nature or character of Fairview Park, and I also knew that that would be a terrible blow to the sense of security and safety for the Howery family.”
“My first feeling was that we were a bit helpless, and then I thought well, we’re not helpless, we are people who have a voice, and I was confident that the leadership of the community and the churches and the school would react the same way to this.”
Pastor Sewell decided to use the marquee in front of his church, New Hope Church, to display the true spirit of Fairview Park; the sign would read, “Everyone Is Our Neighbor.” He then sent emails to the mayor, the school superintendent, and the other local churches, suggesting that they all use their marquees and signs to display a message of solidarity.
The next morning, as Pastor Sewell headed in to his office to put up the sign, he saw that the school had already posted their message of inclusion. Soon after that, “Everyone Is Our Neighbor” appeared at city hall and in front of the other schools and churches around town.
Though understandably shaken by the incident, the Howery family has been heartened by the public show of support. Frederick Howery told Channel 3 news, "We have had very good support. We appreciate everybody coming to visit us and apologize for what happened.”
As well as demonstrating support for the Howery family, the grassroots “Everyone Is Our Neighbor” campaign has managed to change the narrative in a story that has garnered significant media attention. As Pastor Sewell put it, “The real story is that just that tiny spark prompted everyone to action, which showed that everyone had the same response, same mindset, the same character. It just happened to be that I kind of was able to light that fuse a little bit. It was a way for people to express what they were all feeling, a sense of solidarity and unity. And I think for the most part, a community like this one, every time they have that opportunity they’re going to take it.”