On Oct. 19, 60 residents of Redlands, Calif. got together for a screening of Not In Our Town: Light in the Darkness, sponsored by the Redlands Police Department, the Human Relations Commission, and a variety of other groups, and moderated by University of Redlands Race and Ethnic Studies Professor Keith Osajima.
Participants in the discussion found it easy to see the parallels between the conditions that led to the murder of Marcelo Lucero in Patchogue with those in Redlands. In the Redlands Daily Facts article, one woman noted that she “fears for her nephew, a gay student at Redlands High School. ‘We don't talk about homosexuality in this town,' she said. 'We need some (openly gay) leaders to give our young kids an opportunity to grow.’” The group also discussed how the Redlands community responded to the double homicide of two teens earlier this year.
Carole Coley of the Human Relations Commission wrote these reflections after the event:
Wednesday night’s forum, I believe, was a beginning for the City of Redlands to dialogue on intergroup issues that have been 1) swept under the rug; 2) misunderstood; 3) never been acknowledged or openly and frankly discussed. It represented a first start in healing our community but mustn’t stop here.
In speaking with some people who were in groups, I found that people from difference races and backgrounds shared stories of religious and racial intolerance toward them. Perhaps an individual with a different sexual orientation would have wanted to speak out but held back because of ‘perceived’ intolerance of themselves and others in the group. One individual in a group, an African American man, noted that he has always wanted to share his ‘story’ but that telling it to whites would ‘make them feel guilty and uncomfortable’ so he always held back. The film brought out some of their negative feelings towards undocumented immigrants.
Storytelling by individuals always leads to healing and reconciliation. Sharing stories is a means of educating and informing those who take for granted their status in life but also provides a forum of why they feel the way they do. This method has its way of relieving the discomfort and guilt often felt by some when intergroup tensions are discussed. Storytelling opens the conversation to healing and alleviates hate.
In his book, Storytelling, Caleb Paul McMechem notes, “Storytelling is of major importance for any community. While stories can serve to divide groups and give rise to conflict, they can also create new relationships and can mend broken ones, both within and between communities. Stories are important to the formation of healthy collective identities and can be used as a tool to ease intergroup conflict.”
We need more than just this one idea on how to move forward with the next step of this process. The rally after the deaths of those two young men was a positive starting point; our Wednesday night forum was the second step. Perhaps it is time to gather together the community – this time to hear the stories of all. It’s time to really open up.
Screen Not In Our Town: Light in the Darkness in your town. Already had a screening? Let us know how it went.