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One America - Not in Our Town Campaign

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One America

Program: Not in Our Town Campaign, Oakland, CA
Contact(s): Debra Chaplan: (510) 268-9675
Purpose: To initiate discussion on how individuals, schools, workplaces and communities can stop hate, violence and intolerance

Background Program Operations Outcomes


In 1994, the California Working Group (CWG), an Oakland-based media production company, traveled to Billings, Montana to examine how that community handled hate crimes. Originally scheduled to air as a segment in a Labor Day special, producers saw how inspired people were by this project and decided to expand it into a half-hour documentary called, "Not In Our Town," which ran on PBS in December 1995. In collaboration with several media organizations, CWG created "Not in Our Town Week," a week-long effort where communities could use the video to inspire further dialogue on race relations. CWG produced a second video, "Not in Our Town II," which eventually led to an ongoing outreach and organizing campaign. Both videos tell the stories of individuals taking small steps to accomplish big change. In response to the upsurge of hate violence in Billings, citizens adopted several courses of action: Painters union members volunteered to paint over racist graffiti; religious and civic leaders sponsored marches and ecumenical services; and nearly 10,000 homes and businesses displayed full-page menorahs printed in the local newspaper.

Program Operations

Not in Our Town (I and II) are both solution-oriented documentaries that show individuals how their actions can make a difference. Groups watch the videos, discuss them and then relate them to particular situations they face locally. Groups are also provided with resources that instruct them on how to lead a community discussion, curriculum guides for use in high school classes and information on other similar organizations.

Outcomes and Significant Accomplishments

More than 300 screenings, classroom discussions, town hall meetings, marches, ecumenical services, and other events have been organized around the country using the Not in Our Town resources. The level of impact depends on how the videos are used locally. In many areas, the screening itself was the event, and the participants were the primarily beneficiaries. However, in West Virginia and Arizona, the offices of the Attorney General have taken the tapes to human relations councils, police departments and community organizations. Many communities took the videos to city and state officials, generating local proclamations that support Not in Our Town as well as several other civic actions. In Bloomington, Ill., all city vehicles and roadway entry signs to the city carry a "No Racism. Not in Our Town" banner. In Pittsburgh, "Not in Our Town" was the slogan on buttons, t-shirts and newspaper ads that brought together nearly 3,000 people in a unity rally to counter a Ku Klux Klan march. In Los Alamitos, Calif., a high school student created a Not in Our Campus Campaign, and then brought together students from across the state to a conference to inspire them to do the same. In Ohio, workers in the Human Resources Department sponsored study circles in the Cincinnati office using the Not in Our Town theme, and then created a teleconference for department workers across the state, and then created a banner that was displayed in the state capitol building, reaching out to a much wider public. Not in Our Town II has been used in police training sessions, and by many cities and human relations commissions in response to specific hate incidents.

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