New York Middle School Uses Art to Talk About Hate Violence | Not in Our Town

New York Middle School Uses Art to Talk About Hate Violence

In the aftermath of a hate crime, how do teachers open a conversation with
their students about hate and intolerance? After seven high school
students assaulted and killed Ecuadorean immigrant Marcelo Lucero in Patchogue, NY, local educators were shocked that this could happen in
their town. At South Ocean Middle School, Principal Linda Pickford wanted
to create a safe environment where her students could express their
feelings about the tragedy, and share their ideas about diversity,
immigration, inclusion and respect.

When Patchogue Mayor Paul Pontieri suggested that Principal Pickford
host an art exhibit called “Embracing Our Differences,” she agreed that
art was a great medium to explore these important issues, and she
mounted the collection of banners on the front lawn of her school.

On the one-year anniversary of Marcelo Lucero's death, his brother Joselo visited South Ocean Middle School and spoke to the students about his experiences and his hopes for the future.  At that time, Not In Our Town filmed the exhibit for "NIOT III: Where Hate Meets Light," our upcoming documentary film about the community response to this tragic hate crime. 

"Embracing Our Differences" has served as an engaging discussion starter for the students who went on to create their own banners.

"Embracing Our Differences" is a project of the Suffolk Center on the Holocaust, Diversity and Human Understanding. Executive Director Steve Schrier said the exhibit "started off with an art competition which immediately enabled teachers the ability to bring into the classroom the conversation about diversity, human rights, and social justice."

If you are a teacher or school administrator, be sure to check out the Not In Our School section for more resources and examples of how schools have creatively led student-driven projects to celebrate diversity and discuss hate violence.

How have schools and teachers in your community utilized art to talk about hate and intolerance? Share your story below so we can all learn from each other.


The young changemakers, their teachers, and community leaders of Patchogue are inspiring. Thank you for bringing this chapter in their community's story to light.

Art frees us from our identifications with the world. When we put our true feelings and soul out to the world, we start to realize that we're all the same. The sooner we understand our true human nature, the faster we will advance.

 Being an art therapist, I am so happy to read about the use of art toward social healing. Having said that, I wish that they were not making a competition out of the art. Why does there have to be a winner? How about whoever wants to make a piece of art makes a piece of art, and we all get to enjoy the exhibit? I'll bet that the fact that it was made into a competition dissuaded some kids from participting. They get so little art as it is.

After viewing the Embracing Diversity exhibit at Stonybrook Museum in 2009 it was Joselo Lucero who contacted Steve Schrier to request that the exhibit come to Patchogue.  Paul Pontieri jumped on board after meeting with both Mr. Schrier and Mr. Lucero.  The exhibit will be coming again to Patchogue this year in Nov. 2010 to coincide with Marcelo Lucero Vigil

I made a group on DeviantArt about this subject. I started it when I was looking at the banners on the front lawn of my school {SOMS}. So far, it's pretty sucsessful for it's concept. I just wanted to share, and I thought that this would be the right 'site to post my thoughts :3


It is very good that since we were little we explain to them that we are all the same, that we take away the fear of expressing ourselves and that they see that no one is different, we must raise awareness of the young people who are increasingly influenced by society!

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