It seems as though last few months brought the worst out in people. It might be true, but not everyone gives in to the bad environment around them. Amidst of all the angry rhetoric and bullying there are still a lot of people who come together to fight against the bad. In the town of Muscatine, IA residents, organizations and institutions took things in their own hands and created Not In Our Town coalition because hate, bigotry and bullying is not welcomed in Muscatine.
“Not In Our Town Muscatine is a coalition of people, organizations, and institutions coming together to stop hate, bullying and create safe, inclusive environments for everyone in the community,” Nick Salazar one of the founders of Not IN Our Town Muscatine, explained.
Not in Our Town is a national Anti-Violence Network and thanks to Mr. Salazar and activist Linda Kelty a chapter of this organization is now operating in Muscatine.
Not In Our Town Muscatine came to being on New Year’s Day. Mr. Salazar explained that the motivation for starting this initiative in his town was an incident that left bad taste in the mouths of many residents of Muscatine on Thanksgiving weekend of last year McKinley Elementary School was “defaced with words of hate, a swastika and the word Trump on the building.” Mr. Salazar was not going to just wave it off and forget about it. He once was a student at McKinley and it was there where he learned the value of diversity and importance of compassion.
“This incident was an attack on the values that we share as a community. I wanted to do something about it, but wanted to address the bigger picture,” Mr. Salazar told us. “To do this, we understood that not one single person or organization can address these issues, but that it would take everyone to do so.”
Mr. Salazar also shared that when they launched this project in Muscatine, many organizations and people were reaching out to them. They also did not wish to sit idly, but they wanted to go out there and try to do something and more than anything they were looking to calm their own anxieties because of uncertainties that they were facing in their own institutions due to political statements that were disregarding diversities in the communities all over the nation.
“The scope of this campaign is getting everyone in the community to stand together against issues that negatively impact the community,” Nick Salazar said.
Not In Our Town Muscatine gathers citizens, churches, law enforcement, teachers, unions, business owners, various organizations and government leaders and together they try to identify the problems that the community faces and they look for ways to resolve them together.
“We do this by organizing public forums with leaders and residents of the community. Some of these forums may have film screenings showing examples of hate and violence in other towns and how these other communities respond to these issues,” Mr. Salazar stated.
He said that these types of events can spark discussion, start a dialogue and action in the community.
Mr. Salazar indicated that the main goal of this initiative is to show Muscatine residents that if they all stand together they can make real changes happen in local communities.
“We want to empower and inspire people in the community to help create a world where all people stand in solidarity to stop hate and promote safety and inclusion for all walks of life, where school leaders and students work together to address bullying, intolerance and to promote compassion, where residents and law enforcement join forces to prevent hate crimes and violence,” Mr. Salazar explained.
It might sound like a tall order to fill, but that will not stop nor discourage everyone involved with Not In Our Town Muscatine because it is known to everyone that changes start at local level and with time they grow out and infect everyone beyond one community.
Everyone wishing to join Not In Our Town Muscatine, the campaign against hate and violence, can sign up at niotmuscatine.org or join them on their Facebook page @niotmuscatine.