San Francisco | Not in Our Town

San Francisco

San Francisco’s Asian American community has mobilized in recent weeks in response to a series of anti-Asian hate attacks. Rallies across the city were held to send a clear message that the community was united against hate.
  More than 75 Bay Area supporters turned out on Wednesday night for a special screening of Waking in Oak Creek and A Prosecutor’s Stand in San Francisco, followed by a community discussion about community activism. Above: Victor Hwang, the civil rights attorney featured in A Prosecutor's Stand, talks with Not In Our Town producer Charene Zalis. Below: San Francisco Deputy Chief Lyn Tomioka addresses the crowd. Photo courtesy of Jack Rix, Second Act Events and Marketplace.
This summer, a comment arrived in response to our video “Lowell Students Dance Away the Hate,” a short film featuring an inspiring student response to a visit from the hate group known as the Westboro Baptist Church. “This is so sweet,” the commenter wrote, “I found out about this video after I read the book Miss Fortune Cookie! It incorporated this event in the book and included the link to this video at the end. It's so cheerful and happy. =)” Miss Fortune Cookie is a young adult novel penned by Lauren Bjorkman, an author who attended high school in the San Francisco Bay Area and now lives with her family in Taos, New Mexico. We connected via email about her interest in the video and how she fictionalized it in her book.
Palo Alto High interviews younger brother Noah Hornikat It Gets Indie last year. Photo Courtesy of Julian Hornik. When Julian Hornik was cyber-bullied for being gay, he didn’t have to worry about having anything but the full support from his family. In middle school, the young musician found derogatory comments on YouTube videos of his performances. Classmates created a Facebook page that targeted him for being gay. With the support of his family, he said it wasn’t hard for him to “push it away.” Julian and his younger brother Noah are part of an extended family of people who support LGBT rights. While Noah has not personally experienced bullying, he believes the internet allows people to feel “safer and more confident” when they bully and harass others. “They don’t have to see the impact,” Noah said. “People will go a lot farther.”
Video: New Yorkers Gather for Silent March to End Racial Profiling                Imagine, if almost the entire population of San Francisco were stopped by the police and patted down, and 88 percent of the time these innocent people were released with no charges. An entire group of New York city residents, whose numbers are greater than the populations of many large cities, has had this experience. In 2011, the NYPD stopped and questioned more than 685,000 New Yorkers. Eighty-seven percent were Black or Latino and 88 percent of those frisked were innocent and walked away with no charges, according to the NYCLU.
On the Day of Silence, we share with you the story of one middle school that provided the space for all of its students to have their voices heard.  "Forming a Gay Straight Alliance at a middle school requires courage—for the administrator to step up, for the teacher who serves as the advisor, and for each student who walks through that door to be a member." By Dr. Becki Cohn-Vargas, Not In Our School Director My daughter knew she was gay from when she was a young girl, but it wasn’t until middle school that she told me. Not all young people have someone to talk to at that sensitive age.  At Hoover Middle School in the San Francisco Unified School District, teacher Janet Miller learned frightening statistics about her district’s Lesbian, Gay, Transgender, and Questioning (LGBTQ) students at a district training. She discovered that transgender youth were the most likely students to attempt suicide. Impassioned, Janet explains that she got on a table and shouted to the staff, "It’s our job and the job of every single person in this room to enforce safety for all students, not just straight ones, so any time you are not doing it, you are not doing your job!”  She convinced the staff that Hoover needed to do something about this serious issue.
On Sept. 21—the day our film, Not In Our Town: Light in the Darkness premiered on PBS—San Francisco declared it Not In Our Town Day.   The proclamation, signed by San Francisco Mayor Edwin M. Lee, was presented to Not In Our Town Executive Director Jonathan Bernstein at a special Human Rights Commission meeting last night. The City and County of San Francisco's Human Rights Commission had called the meeting to explore hate crime trends and anti-bullying efforts.   The proclamation states that: "Not In Our Town has motivated thousands of people to develop their own initiatives to overpower hateful actions and voices in our communities" and "the City and County of San Francisco is proud to recognize Not In Our Town's Week of Action, which takes place from September 18-24, during which time people across the country are taking action to build communities that are inclusive for everyone."   For Bernstein, the proclamation will encourage others to speak out against hatred.    
Last fall, the Jewish Community High School of the Bay in San Francisco invited us to share stories from the Not In Our Town movement and lead a discussion on acceptance. See how the school's Gay Straight Alliance organized this event as part of their larger mission to ensure all students are supported for who they are. Check out the video, "Students at Jewish High School Talk About Acceptance." Here's a few screenshots from the film. The school's Gay Straight Alliance organized a community block featuring Not In Our Town. Three hundred students attended the event. Not In Our Town Executive Director Jonathan Bernstein screened several films detailing anti-hate actions across the country and lead the discussion on how communities—and schools—can pave the way for  positive change.
San Francisco, CA-  The community turned out in force for yesterday's Not In Our Town meeting at the San Francisco Public Library. Nearly 50 people representing city agencies, law enforcement, faith-based organizations and ethnic advocacy groups shared ideas, suggested ongoing actions, and stayed on to chat long after the coffee ran out.  Some have pledged to join the SF Network, a group for people in the San Francisco Bay Area who want to stop prejudice, bigotry, intolerance and hate-based violence in the city, and wish to share ideas, information and resources with like-minded fellows. Victor Hwang, Hate Crime Prosecutor for the San Francisco District Attorney's Office (pictured at left), was one of several attending who offered concrete suggestions for ongoing actions. To learn more about the gathering, read this post from blogger Fran Johns, a board member of the San Francisco Interfaith Council.