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Advocacy (2000)

Advocacy In Action 
[Year 2000 in Review] 
by Kathy J. Fredericks

As we prepare to move into a new year, it is good to take a moment and reflect on the year past.  Our mission provides us with three areas of focus --- Education, Celebration, and Advocacy.  We have continued the work as educators by participating in various workshops, panel discussions, and general presentations about diversity in the Fox Valley.  As educators, we worked with area organizations to bring in Morris Dees from the Southern Poverty Law Center to talk about hope and tolerance.  This year we have held and been a part of numerous cultural celebrations like the Martin Luther King Service, Celebrate Diversity Picnic, and Foods of All Nations to name a few.  These celebrations have given residents the opportunity to experience and enjoy the diversity of the valley.

The original goal of Toward Community was to fill the role of advocates.  This year, we have come full circle and our role as advocates has increased dramatically.  We have been a strong public voice when fairness and equality is threatened.

At the beginning of our year, injustices were brought to our attention by workers at a local company.  We publicly voiced concern and offered support to the employees.  Finally, we were able to meet privately with the company to work towards creating a common ground to resolve differences and move forward.

This year, Toward Community maintained a strong presence in the reported hate crime in Buchanan.  More importantly, we are working to help change hate crime legislation to include a broader scope and more vigorous application.

Our most public stand took place on Labor Day weekend when Scriptures for America, a known hate group with white supremacist ties met in Waupaca County.  The leader of this group, Pete Peters, is a proponent for the death penalty for homosexuals and a strong advocate for the Christian Identity movement.  Christian Identity followers believe that in order for their Christ to return, the earth must be rid of all anti-Christ forces.  They consider Jews and Homosexuals to be those anti-Christ forces.  They also believe that Blacks, Asians, Hispanics and all minorities are something called ‘mud people’, i.e., subhuman.  The dangerous philosophies taught by Peters and his ilk are of great concern to anyone aware of the damage that a hate group such as this can inflict upon individuals and an entire community.  Timothy McVeigh, Benjamin Smith, and the men who killed James Byrd in Jasper, Texas are just a few examples of the lone wolves within the Identity movement who took their beliefs and turned them into terror.  Toward Community participated in a rally when Peters and his group came to NE Wisconsin and sent the clear message of NOT IN OUR TOWN!  We helped get information to the public about the dangers of Peters and his Identity followers.

As we look forward to the new year, we must continue to be vigilant in our fight against hate crimes and hate groups.  We must continue to stress the important message of inclusion for all members of our community.  Our role as advocates needs to continue to grow and strengthen.  Evil only requires indifference to enable it to spread.