Town of North Hempstead Supervisor Judi Bosworth and members of the town recently partnered with the Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center of Nassau County to present Not In Our Town: A Unity & Anti-Hate Conference that brought together community leaders from across Long Island to take a stand against hate crimes, violence and intolerance. Guest speakers included Village of Patchogue Mayor Paul Pontieri; Tracy Garrison-Feinberg, Director of Education for the Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center of Nassau County (HMTC); Steve Markowitz, chair HMTC; Dr. Isma Chaudhry, president of the Islamic Center of L.I.; Joselo Lucero from the Hagedorn Foundation; Rev. Dyanne Pina, executive director of the L.I. Council of Churches, and Juli Grey-Owens, executive director of the Long Island Transgender Advocacy Coalition (LITAC).
Inspector Daniel Flanagan of the Nassau County Police Department’s Third Precinct and ADA Caryn Stepner of the Nassau County District Attorney’s Hate Crimes Unit were also available to answer questions.
“The Not In Our Town initiative speaks right to the heart of how we feel here in North Hempstead,” said Bosworth. “This conference and our wonderful speakers have instilled hope in the fight against intolerance and hate. I know that by standing together we are sending a powerful message that we will not tolerate messages of hate.”
The panel of speakers spoke about the danger of indifference and the importance of speaking out against hate and intolerance.
Garrison-Feinberg, urged people to take a stand against hate by stating, “The hate and the bias that turned into the genocide and Holocaust of the 20th century started by people allowing bias to flourish and not standing up when the name calling was happening.”
Reverend Pina told the audience, “Hate is going to be here. That is the way some people are and until their heart changes nothing is going to move them…. But love is a four letter word that we can all take part in.”
Dr. Chaudhry expressed how important it is to stand against bigotry, hate, anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. “We can come together with love, with respect and with universalism,” she stated. “Let’s do it and let’s show them how to do it and let’s make it happen. We can only make it happen together.”
Grey-Owens explained to the audience that discrimination can happen to anyone and how those in the transgender community are especially susceptible. “Transpeople are part of every nationality, every race, every age group, every gender and every religion. Unfortunately, this means that we can be discriminated against not only for being transgender, but for our religious beliefs, for being people of color, being a refugee or for being undocumented.”
Joselo Lucero inspired the audience with his moving story about how he has dedicated his life to prevent bullying and hate crimes following the 2008 murder of his brother Marcelo, the victim of a hate crime. “Now is the crucial time, when my community is being targeted, the Muslim community is being targeted the minority community is being targeted,” he said. “We have to stand up,” said Lucero.
Keynote speaker Mayor Pontieri spoke about how, following the murder of Marcelo Lucero, he worked together with the people of Patchogue to heal the community. His speech was entitled, A Local Perspective: For Mayors and Supervisors, It’s About Integration, Not Immigration.
“In 2008, I could not foresee how on November 8, 2008 seven high school students from an adjoining community would pile into a car, looking for Latinos to assault,” Pontieri said. “Despite our national identity as a melting pot the integration of immigrants into any community is difficult in the best of times…Patchogue began the process in earnest on the heels of a tragic murder. Mayors cannot afford to focus on the wrong aspect of the immigration debate. On the local level it should always be about integration and not immigration. Patchogue’s story should serve as a powerful cautionary tale to all of us.”
The evening concluded with attendees signing the Not In Our Town Pledge to not be silent in the face of hate crimes, intolerance or violence. In the coming weeks a “Not In Our Town” poster will be printed as a full page ad in the local newspapers, suitable for hanging in a window or storefront.
Not In Our Town is a project of The Working Group, an Oakland-based nonprofit founded in 1988, that was launched in 1995 with their landmark PBS film that documented the heroic efforts of Billings, MT, citizens who stood up for their neighbors after a series of hate crimes. They inspired hundreds of communities in the United States and around the world to take action against hate.
North Hempstead’s Not In Our Town campaign began several months ago with the distribution of posters for individuals and businesses to display in their windows declaring “I will not remain silent in the face of hate crimes, violence or intolerance.”
“This conference is just the first step,” said Bosworth. “We need to remain vigilant against hateful acts. Our residents know that our town is a place where all can feel safe regardless of their religion, race, ethnicity or sexual orientation. North Hempstead is a family and we need to treat each other with love and respect.”
To learn more about the initiative, visit www.notinourtown.org. For more information about the Town of North Hempstead, call 311.