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Not in Our Town 

Community conversations around hate come to COCC

On March 5 and 6, Central Oregon Community College's 10th Annual Season of Nonviolence, sponsored by the COCC Multicultural Activities Center, is hosting two free events, bolstered by the national, community-based organization, Not In Our Town. The group's executive director, Patrice O'Neill, will screen a film that looks at how Northern California communities responded to hate, followed by a panel of local students talking about bullying and hate in their schools. Deschutes County District Attorney John Hummel will give opening remarks at 6 pm Monday in Wille Hall in the Coats Campus Center.

On Tuesday, from 9 am to noon in the same location, O'Neill will lead a community workshop with civic leaders, community activists, teachers, students, counselors, elected officials and law enforcement, aimed at developing local proposals for stopping hate and creating a safe, inclusive community.

"We want to be not just responding to hate crimes, but building an environment in which hate crimes will not happen," O'Neill said in a phone interview from her office in Oakland, Calif.

Part of the NIOT mission, she says, is to share the story of what one particular community has done which can help another community take action and develop a plan to create an inclusive community in which everyone can participate.

"Change will be driven by the local community and it will be owned by the people in that community," O'Neill says. "Racism is part of the fabric of our country that we so rarely talk about, and if you leave it untouched it can erupt and be very harmful."

In many instances, she says, racism and intolerance "that people don't want to talk about" remains just under the surface. "It's festering and when it erupts we see what can happen. Most communities think they are immune to it, but they're not."

A large part of the NIOT philosophy is aimed toward youth, O'Neill says. "They are going to be the ones who carry this forward. There has to be a commitment to long-term action.

"Young people need to be involved, and they are finding their moral courage. We're seeing that in Florida. There's an epidemic of violence in our country and gun violence is a huge issue."

O'Neill says she's been to Bend three or four times, the most recent being last summer for the solar eclipse. "What a great town! I'm really excited to be there."

Co-sponsors of the NIOT events are Building Common Ground, Central Oregon Labor Council, Bend Education Association, KPOV and Deschutes Cultural Coalition. For information, contact Karen Roth, 541-383-7412, kroth1@cocc.edu, or Michael Funke, 541-350-3053, funkeredfinn24@gmail.com

Central Oregon Community College Season of Non-Violence

Events include:

Not In Our Town film screening

Mon., March 5, 6pm-8pm

Coats Campus Center

Community Organizing Workshop

Tues., March 6, 9am-noon

Coats Campus Center

Not In Our Town movement

niot.org


About The Author

Richard Sitts

Richard Sitts grew up in the midwest, mostly in Kansas. After earning a journalism degree from Kansas State University, he worked in various capacities at newspapers in Kansas, New York, New Mexico, California and Colorado, before arriving in Bend several years ago. Highlights included working as a bureau reporter...
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