Not in Our Town Launches National Social Media Initiative Against Prejudice and Hate-Based Violence

Oakland, California (EastBayDaily) — As the country reels from a wave of hate-fueled rhetoric out of Washington DC, with physical attacks masquerading as political opposition, an Oakland-based media nonprofit offers an exciting new resource in the fight against bigotry, prejudice, and hate crime.

That resource is, a powerful new interactive website developed by Not In Our Town, a 15-year-old movement based in Oakland, Calif. that uses documentary film, grassroots organizing, educational outreach and social media to promote positive community responses to hate violence and prejudice.

Launched nationally at a gala event in San Francisco on April 6, is a stellar example of how people can use social media for real-world change, quickly and effectively. The site features Web 2.0 functionality, including mapping, video and film and active blogs. It allows people around the globe to connect, share ideas and model best practices for building safe, inclusive communities.

“Not In Our Town is especially inspiring because the people involved are ordinary people, and the actions they took are the types of things any of us could and should do,” says Paul Sheridan, assistant attorney general for West Virginia.

The project takes its name from Not in Our Town, the inspiring 1995 PBS documentary produced by Oakland filmmaker Patrice O’Neill about the residents of Billings, Montana who stood together in the face of hate violence that rocked their small community. Not in Our Town has an ongoing relationship with PBS, with the next broadcast planned for the spring of 2011 on PBS affiliates around the country, with co-branded content on

While Not in Our Town has worked effectively since then by using its documentary films to generate discussions in hundreds of schools and communities around the country, thereby helping them strategize and organize to avoid such incidents in the future, the new, interactive website permits personal, unmediated access between individuals and communities fighting hate regionally, nationally, and globally.

Just as Facebook, Twitter, and other social networking media are utilized to organize last-minute events and get out pithy pronouncements about matters of relevance to a core constituency, so, too is the central address for those who wish to build a safe, hatred-free society.

“Not in our Town allows people and communities who have experienced prejudice or violence to transcend the experience by connecting and learning from each other,” says O’Neill. “But Not in Our Town is also proactive, with an emphasis on prevention. The nationwide roll-out of our newest phase will enable people to recognize circumstances that are breeding grounds for prejudice…and prevent hatred from taking root.”

Educators, religious leaders and activists around the country have found one another through the blog postings on Not in our Town.      When Fred Phelps’ so-called Westboro Baptist Church arrived in San Francisco this January to picket local schools, Jewish institutions, and a naval base, people turned to to talk to each other, share their concerns, and post photos and videos from the counter-actions they held. One of the most impressive counter protests occurred at Gunn High School in Palo Alto. The students, well versed in fighting hate after six years of organizing workshops and activities against intolerance under the banner of Not In Our School week, came together with teachers and administrators to engage in more discussions about safety, inclusion and diversity. Their showing of unity, acceptance and love for their fellow students easily overpowered the small group of picketers. Their video about the action has been viewed on youtube at over 160,000 times.

    Marcelo Lucero, an immigrant from Ecuador, was attacked and stabbed to death in the small town of Patchogue, N.Y. in a hate crime assault in November 2008. Seven local teenagers were charged in the attack. One of the assailants, testifying against Conroy, the only teen charged with murder, said the seven teens often went “beaner hopping,” which he described to the court as “it’s when you go out and look for Hispanics to beat up.” The community of Patchogue, and Latino leaders are working to address the safety concerns of immigrants in the aftermath of the crime. Marcelo’s brother Joselo has been heartened by the many people who have showed up in the courtroom to support him and his family. Others who cannot attend have been sending messages of support through Few of these people know the Luceros, but they understand the family’s pain. One group of supporters are the students in Julie Mann’s human rights class at Newcomers High School. Most of them, immigrants themselves, have been following the story of Marcelo’s hate killing, and have send messages to Joselo through to let him know he is not alone.

There are numerous other examples of communities connecting through Not in Our Town.

The launch of is a national story with strong local relevance. There is virtually no city in America that has not been scarred by incidents of prejudice or hate-driven violence.

This is one powerful answer. Visit Not in Our Town at


Susan von Seggern
Not in Our Town