Billings | Not in Our Town


Young community leaders gather for a photo at the 2006 Not In Our Town National Gathering. Photo by Jackson Hill.   Standing up to build hate-free communities is challenging work. The Not In Our Town National Leadership Gathering is an opportunity for community members and leaders to learn the concrete steps to build a diverse, thriving town. In this session, you will learn solutions needed in all communities: Turn apathy and complacency into energy Keep coalitions proactive Pass on the knowledge of veteran leaders turn them into mentors for youth Get civic and business leaders to join in community-based efforts Bring school boards on board to change school climate Understand and communicate the impact of hate incidents and bullying Turn your police department into hate-prevention leaders
We met Eran Thompson when he came to the first Not in Our Town National Leadership Gathering in 2006 in Bloomington, IL. Eran was in high school during the time of the original events in Billings in the early 90s, but he became a community organizer and was asked to join in an effort to renew the local Not In Our Town group. After the Gathering, he went back and did just that! The Not In Our Town Billings group has thrived under his leadership. Not In Our Town National took notice and invited Eran to serve as a member of our board of directors. It is because of Eran that we are all returning to Billings this June to celebrate the 20th anniversary with the second National Leadership Gathering. Oh and when you meet him, ask him to perform your favorite Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. quote—he will nail it. —Rhian Miller, co-founder of Not In Our Town/The Working Group Eran Thompson, chair of Not In Our Town Billings Tell us about your community and the work you do there.
Chris Seifert, director of educational services for Montana PBS, teaches students how to conduct an interview during a class at the Billings Public Library. The students will interview people involved in the Not In Our Town movement. Photo Credit: Billings Gazette Billings, MT students engage in a project to tell stories about Not In Our Town through video and other media, including their town’s successful efforts to stand up to white supremacist hate crimes, according to the Billings Gazette. West High School students from a combined English and American History class began meeting twice a week in January to learn about Not In Our Town events from local activists. The students also received a crash course in journalism practices to apply to their projects.
  Source: Time.Com, Kristallnacht in Words and Photographs By Becki Cohn-Vargas, Not In Our School Director
Law Enforcement: As part of our ongoing work with the U.S. Department of Justice COPS Office, we invited law enforcement leaders for a webinar in late July. Beyond a few minor technical glitches, it was wonderful to connect and share best practices in our law enforcement cadre including the work of COPS Office Program Analyst Nazmia Alqadi, Marshall County, IA Sheriff Ted Kamatchus and Marshalltown, IA Police Chief Michael Tupper. If you are in law enforcement and would like to participate in the next webinar in October, please contact us at   Community Work: Not In Our Town Executive Producer Patrice O’Neill had nothing but good things to say about her July visit to Billings, MT. She met with former Billings Mayor Chuck Tooley, current Mayor Thomas Hanel, and Police Chief Rich St. John. Patrice and Community Engagement Director Michelle Gahee-Kloss also met with the Sacramento Hate Crimes Task Force in July.  
  How coaches can help build compassion among young men  
Every Hanukkah, we are reminded of the incredible courage of those who stand up for their neighbors. On one bitterly cold night, a brick was thrown through a 6-year-old Jewish boy's bedroom window, where he had placed the family's Hanukkah menorah. The anti-Semitic incident was one of several hateful acts in Billings, MT that year, including skinheads at an African-American church, racist hate messages on a Native-American woman's home, and the desecration of the Jewish cemetery. The community responded by saying, "Not In Our Town." In an act of solidarity, nearly 10,000 Billings residents hung paper menorahs in their windows. This Hanukkah story is part of our origin story here at the Not In Our Town project. Today, please remember the Billings story with us.     Happy Holidays. 
Native Americans Open Up About Prejudice in Montana NIOT Summit Native Americans in Montana still face discrimination every day, said attendees at the Not In Our Town “Summit on Hate” in Billings, MN last week, hosted by NIOT Billings. Sometimes the racist attacks come in the form of “war chants” at high school football games. Other times, it’s  the derogatory comments about government assistance all natives supposedly get. “I’ve been waiting for my ‘free Indian money’ my whole life. It doesn’t happen,” said Luella Brien, a member of the Crow tribe. Brien and others related their experiences at the summit. Read more on Indian Country Today. Northeast Neighbors Band Together in Sandy’s WakeNew York and New Jersey residents are still reeling from the effects of Hurricane Sandy, but neighborhoods have banded together to help out those most affected by the superstorm.
Following the premiere broadcast of Not In Our Town: Light in the Darkness on PBS, many communities across the country joined the campaign against hate and intolerance by hosting screenings and using the film to start a conversation about hate and intolerance in their areas. 
On Feb. 1, 1960, four young black students sat at the whites-only Woolworth lunch counter in Greensboro, N.C., where they were refused service by staff and heckled by patrons. By fall, sit-ins spread to more than 100 Southern cities and historians estimate that as many as 100,000 participated in the non-violent protest. These couragous acts continue to inspire the anti-hate movement today. Here are clips from the PBS documentary, Eyes on the Prize.  The historical footage includes students walking to lunch counters and students leaders describing their motives and strategies. Our education partners at Facing History created an Eyes on the Prize study guide.