The Not In Our Town group is starting a pledge drive, asking community members to sign a pledge card, agreeing to fight hatred and discrimination in the Twin Cities.
Will you sign?
NIOT's roots are almost 20 years old; its belief and work against hatred and discrimination resulted from a notable 1995 documentary about how Billings, Mont., responded to racism in that community.
The pledge drive started this week, with a ceremonial signing by about 100 community, political and educational leaders.
Argue what you like, but living a life of non-hatred and non-discrimination isn't just the purview of 100 well-known names. Instead, it's a belief system that must be practiced by every one of us for it to be successful and for it to spread beyond our municipal borders.
NIOT's resurgence comes as the nation faces yet another battle against perceived unequal treatment: this time, it's the deaths of two black men by white police officers, and grand juries in St. Louis and New York deciding neither case had enough criminal merit to warrant indicting the officers.
The resulting unrest has been compared to the race riots in South Central Los Angeles in the early 1990s and to civil rights protests in the 1960s. The Ferguson Rioters, as a group, were on a short list to be named Time magazine's Person of the Year, a title reserved for a person or group that has most affected change in the country.
But true change starts at the grassroots level.
Next-door neighbors, clerks at grocery stores, kids in a classroom, colleagues at work. One by one, we make a difference, and that becomes two by two, and so on. That's the goal behind the NIOT pledge campaign: each individual makes a pledge that together, as a community, we stand against hate and discrimination of any kind.
As reported in Sunday's Pantagraph, NIOT member Marc Miller hopes the local anti-hate campaign will lead to community discussions.
"We can talk about what goes on in Ferguson. We can talk about what goes on with our police and what happens in our schools," added Mike Matejka, a NIOT member and Great Plains Laborers District Council's governmental affairs director. "And we can do it in a way that is respectful and hopefully builds understanding."
Take a hard look and decide whether you will sign a pledge card. It's a simple step, but it takes a second one to make it work. Here is the NIOT website where you can find the card: www.niotbn.org.
Open, honest and respectful discussion.
Editor's note: Cheers and jeers will return Dec. 19
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