Not In Our Town Bowling Green

Not In Our Town project to tell stories of local lives

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Every life has a story. There’s a beginning, an end, and everything in between that makes a person who he or she is. Not In Our Town Bowling Green would like share the stories of local residents’ lives by putting words and photos together for an exhibit. “We want to use narratives and storytelling to promote understanding across differences,” said Christina Lunceford, campus co-chair of Not In Our Town. “We are trying to find a way to better tell the story of who’s in our community.” The Not In Our Town Narrative Project will be modeled after storytelling projects in other communities across the U.S. The purpose is to provide “space for our community to develop understanding of varying world views and lived experiences.” The photos and stories will tell about the lives of local leaders and everyday people in the community, Lunceford said. “Who’s got a story to share,” she said. The idea is that once the photos and narratives are collected, they will be displayed on a BGSU diversity and inclusion webpage, but also be part of a rotating exhibit in the community – in places like the library or storefronts. “We want to talk about the richness our backgrounds bring,” Lunceford said. “We want to understand how people’s backgrounds and experiences benefit their communities.” Local people wanting to share their stories or be part of the process of photographing or collecting the narratives are asked to email, or fill out this survey to indicate interest. Individuals who would like to share their stories and portraits will be contacted to set up photography sessions and interviews. The interview questions that will help guide personal narratives will be sent out in advance. By showcasing the various voices that make up the Bowling Green community, the goal is threefold: to celebrate diversity that is in BG through visual arts, to showcase acts of “ally-ship,” and to raise awareness of the experiences of marginalized groups in the community. The idea for the narrative project comes from the works of Dr. Howard C. Stevenson on racial literacy and inspired by the California Polytechnic State University’s Dr. Jennifer Teramoto Pedrotti’s work with the Kennedy Library’s “I am Cal Poly” exhibit and University of California-Santa Barbara’s Dr. Kip Fulbeck’s “Pan Asian, 100% Hapa” traveling exhibit.

Consultant encourages people to engage in the hard work of conversing about race & diversity

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Talking about race is hard. That’s no reason not to have those conversations, Jamie Washington told a gathering of university faculty staff and students and community members last week. Washington, a consultant on diversity, had been invited to Bowling Green State University by the Office of Residence Life. Washington, whose credentials include being an ordained minister, didn’t come pontificate. Instead he had those in attendance do the talking, to each other, one on one face to face with people they didn’t know. He was hoping to spark some genuine conversation.  Not the kind that happens in a meeting where people “perform” what they’re supposed to say, but the kind of exchanges that happen at “the meeting after the meeting” when people are free to share what they really think. One of Washington’s few pieces of guidance for the conversations: “If you’re hearing a voice that says ‘you can’t say that,’ that’s what I need you to say. That will take us to engagement.” Ana Brown, Coordinator for Diversity and Retention Initiative in the Office of Residence Life, said hosting speakers like Washington is a way of fulfilling the university’s mission statement. Washington has been called one of the top consultants on diversity by The Economist. He currently serves as president of the American College Student Personnel Association. Given the community’s partnership with BGSU in Not In Our Town, Brown said, it was natural to pull community members in. “A lot of folks want to have these conversations, but don’t know how. Attending sessions like these will make it more comfortable for these folks.” She hopes to have more dialogues.  That’s a key, Washington said. Progress is only made through practice. If it’s a one-time speaker, or conversations are only held when there’s a crisis, that’s not enough. “It’s like going to the gym once a year.” Leaders, whether campus, government, religious, or business, need to take responsibility for infusing this into the way they do their business every day and create opportunities for conversation. Practice is needed because grappling with issues of race and diversity is difficult. Washington himself said he’s had to deal with his own issues as a male in dealing with female colleagues. “We have to own that difficulty,” he said. That’s the context of these talks. “People move to the content before engaging the context. The context of diversity and race conversations is one of fear, concern, lack of trust, tiredness, weariness. Folks don’t know how to be in it. That’s the context, so let’s talk about the context.” Only by creating enough space for these conversations will people move beyond the context to the content. “Let’s not pretend it’s a valueless enterprise,” he said. “The value is we all matter. If we don’t share that, there will be a disconnect.” Communities need to find their ways to a solution. “When I say solution, I mean ways … to get us to a vision of a more inclusive community and society where we all feel we’re valued, respected and can contribute to our full potential to the betterment of human kind.”  

Not In Our Town celebrates five years of fighting hatred

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   A series of hate-filled acts five years ago led to the birth of Not In Our Town Bowling Green. On Tuesday, the five-year anniversary of the organization was celebrated with cake, balloons and pledges of renewed commitment. Vicky Kulicke, a founder of NIOT BG, recalled the dark events that led to the organization’s formation. First, there were swastikas drawn on the driveway of a BGSU basketball coach. Then there was the arson at the Islamic Center in Perrysburg Township. And finally, there were a series of racist tweets that were made by BGSU students at a local bar about fellow African American students in the establishment. The community was looking for a solution when Kulicke suggested the formation of Not In Our Town. The organization had been created in 1995 in Billings, Montana, after someone threw a brick through a storefront window where a Menorah was on display. In that community, the newspaper printed pictures of a Menorah for citizens to post in their own windows to show support. Kulicke believed something like that could work here in Bowling Green. She was challenged by the president of the BGSU Black Student Union to make it happen. So Kulicke started knocking on doors and found overwhelming support – from the mayor, BGSU president, city police and campus police. But Kulicke still wasn’t sure how the overall campus and community would respond. A panel discussion was planned to launch the Not In Our Town concept – but no one knew if students and citizens would attend. “We wondered if people were even going to care about what we cared about,” she said. “There was a great fear of failure.” It turned out they did care – so much so that people packed a BGSU lecture hall to hear about the program. The efforts to “beat the drum for justice” were successful, Kulicke said. “When we launched it was rapid fire,” she said of that drum beat. Since then, Not In Our Town has stood up to hatred and intolerance of many kinds in Bowling Green. The group stands for a safe and inclusive community, and against acts of discrimination based on race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, sexuality, ability, religion and class. The organization’s pledge calls for people to “lead and live through example by stopping bigotry before it starts.” Holly Cipriani, NIOT programming chairperson, asked those attending the five-year celebration to renew their commitment. “How do we embody the pledge and live it day to day,” she said. Though the drum beat has slowed and been quiet at times, Kulicke assured those present that Not In Our Town is still committed to fighting hatred in any form. Lately that has included working on issues of gun violence and food insecurity. “There are always individuals having side conversations on how to make our community safe and people more a part of it,” she said. Support was voiced Tuesday by city and university leaders. Bowling Green City Council President Mike Aspacher praised the efforts of Not In Our Town. “Five years ago, the Bowling Green community came together to stand in the face of hatred and bigotry,” he said. The work of the organization shows “hate has no place here and absolutely will not be tolerated,”…

Not In Our Town struggles to keep students involved

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Not In Our Town was born in Bowling Green nearly five years ago in response to a racial hatred crisis. A series of racist tweets were posted by white students, spurring students and community members to demand changes and official responses to the discrimination. A series of public meetings were held, many of them standing room only. Large banners were filled with signatures of people taking a stand against hate speech and actions in Bowling Green. Students and city residents were inspired to strike down discrimination. Not In Our Town was the group uniting students and city folks in their righteous anger toward hatred. That was then. Now when Not In Our Town meetings are held, the seats are filled with the same community members and university staff still committed to the cause. But there are no students. Meeting times and locations have been tweaked in order to meet student schedules. If students do attend, it is fleeting, with few making repeated appearances. The leadership of Not In Our Town knows there is still support among students. When a march was held last fall from downtown to campus, the walkers numbered in the hundreds and stretched for blocks. But the organization is struggling to understand the lack of student participation – since it’s not that discrimination no longer exists. So recently, a NIOT outreach group met to discuss solutions. It’s not that BGSU students no longer believe in the mission of Not In Our Town, said Holly Cipriani, an academic adviser at the university. “A lot of them are a big fan of the Not In Our Town movement, but it’s very abstract,” she said. The students who helped start NIOT in the wake of the tweet crisis have moved on. And it’s difficult to reach other students, who are juggling a lot of academic, social and work issues. Not In Our Town organizers will probably have a table again at this year’s Campus Fest, which introduces students to every organization on campus and in the community. But Rev. Gary Saunders noted that Campus Fest is a day of “wonderful chaos” and having a meaningful conversation with students can be difficult. Initially, students from organizations representing black, Latino and LGBTQ populations on campus flocked to NIOT. But those leaders have also moved on. “Engaging those organizations, it’s indisputable, hasn’t been effective,” Saunders said. “That’s always a part of the conversation. How do you keep the engagement,” said Vicky Kulicke, a NIOT member. Kulicke also pointed out that it’s more than just the minority groups who need to be involved. “Some of the conversations we need to have are with the white students.” The outreach group talked about ways to make NIOT known to incoming freshmen. “We’ve wanted to connect with new students,” Saunders said. “We can engage new students in their best selves by connecting them into the NIOT vision and network in concrete ways.” Retired BGSU faculty Tom Klein and Donald Scherer offered suggestions on where NIOT can make those connections. The next Not In Our Town meeting, open to anyone, will be Aug. 10, at 3 p.m., in the Wood County District Public Library. The next meeting of the outreach group will be Aug. 30, at 5:30 p.m., in the…

‘Isms’ give power to prejudice by labeling people

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   Racism. Sexism, Ageism. Classism. Those “isms” tacked onto the ends of words stand for prejudice combined with power. The words define systematic prejudice – made easier by lumping people under a label. Earlier this month, Not In Our Town Bowling Green held another workshop at the library – this one specifically on “isms.” Everyone at the workshop could identify as a victim of at least one “ism.” There were “foreigners” and “feminists.”  There were people who stood out due to their color or their politics. The workshop was led by Dr. Krishna Han, assistant director of the BGSU Office of Multicultural Affairs. Han, originally from Cambodia, speaks five languages. Sometimes he can’t immediately find the English word that he is searching for. So, his strength sometimes appears to be a weakness when people judge Han’s intelligence by his occasional halting English. That and the color of his skin mean that Han may forever be looked upon as a foreigner in the U.S. – no matter how many years he had been here or the fact that he is an American citizen. “Generalization is dangerous – period,” Han said. Han tires of hearing people say, “Worry about your own country … This is my country,” he said. Even stereotypes that paint favorable pictures of people – such as all Asians being smart and hardworking – are harmful. “Any stereotype is negative,” said Ana Brown, a member of NIOT and BGSU administration member. Han asked the group to identify the hurtful comments directed to them in the past. “What do you never again want people to say, think or do toward your group?” For Yaohan Chen, an Asian-American, it was easy. “Go back to where you came from, or that we are not part of America and shouldn’t have a say in America,” Chen said. Then there’s the common, “Are immigrants stealing benefits? Are they benefitting society or not?” Margaret Montague, of NIOT, recalled a speaker originally from India being frequently asked how often he gets to go home. His answer – every day at the end of work. “How long does someone get labeled as an immigrant?” she asked. Some are “perpetual foreigners” because of the color of their skin. “When does it end?” Montague said. “My family has been here longer than most, but I will always be an outsider,” Brown said. The group also discussed those stereotyped because of their socio-economic status. Some are labeled “trailer trash,” by those who have no idea of the toll that generational poverty takes on families, Brown said. “Poverty has become a moral failing,” with poor people often labeled as lazy and stupid, Brown said. “It takes a long time to dig out. It’s a systematic injustice.” The women in the group listed off comments they could do without, such as “Men are the head of the household,” Montague said. Brown recalled working as a camp counselor when being told, “The boys will gather the firewood. The girls will cut the vegetables.” The tables were turned when the boys returned with wood that could not be used. “We can’t light green wood,” Brown told them, as she and the girls picked up dead wood from the ground. “Now the boys will wash the dishes and…

Not In Our Town offers educational series

(Submitted by Not In Our Town Bowling Green) Not in Our Town Bowling Green and the BGSU Office of Multicultural Affairs are hosting a program on Safe Zone Training: A Focus on LGBTQ+ and Ally Building. The program is Thursday, June 1, from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Wood County District Public Library. The session is free and open to the public. The workshop will be conducted by Dr. Krishna Han, assistant director of the BGSU Office of Multicultural Affairs. The workshop provides education concerning LGBTQ+ issues and creating a positive environment for LGBTQ+ people. The purpose of the workshop is to strengthen and expand a support network of allies for the Bowling Green LGBTQ+ community. Safe Zone training is important because increasing numbers of Bowling Green community members openly identify as LGBTQ+. The political landscape has also created new challenges for LGBTQ+ persons. To learn more about the programs and the topics, go to the Not in Our Town Bowling Green Facebook page ( Our-Town- Bowling-Green-411179839042009/). Posts and videos about the program topics will be included on the NIOT BG Facebook page.

Not In Our Town to host program on ‘Isms’

(Submitted by Not in Our Town Bowling Green) Educational Series on Reducing Prejudice: “A Discussion of Isms.” Not in Our Town Bowling Green (NIOT BG) and the BGSU Office of Multicultural Affairs will be hosting a program entitled “A Discussion of Isms” on Wednesday, May 17, from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Wood County District Public Library, 251 N. Main St. The session will be held in the first floor meeting room at the library. The program is the second program in the Educational Series on Reducing Prejudice. The workshop is interactive and designed to be a springboard for discussions of the sensitive topics and issues around various –ism issues.  The session will encourage participants to think about assumptions, stereotypes, and choices we make or could make. These topics can and do impact our community. This workshop is based on the principles that every issue counts and hearing stories relating to life experiences, especially those who identified differently from us, can shifts attitudes and build allies. The third and final program in the Reducing Prejudice series will be held on Thursday, June 1, from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Wood County District Public Library. The program is on Safe Zone Training. The workshop provides education concerning LGBTQ+ issues and seeks to improve the environment for LGBTQ+ people. For further information, contact Dr. Krishna Han

NIOT offers series of programs on reducing prejudice

By JAN LARSON McLAUGHLIN BG Independent News   An educational series on reducing prejudice is planned in Bowling Green – with one requirement for those attending. “Just come with an open mind,” said Dr. Krishna Han, assistant director of the BGSU Office of Multicultural Affairs. “It takes a village to build a caring community,” said Han, who will be the facilitator in the three-part series looking at the power of words, “isms” and safe zones. The programs are being hosted by Not in Our Town Bowling Green and the BGSU Office of Multicultural Affairs on April 20, May 17, and June 1. All programs will be held at the Wood County District Public Library from 6 to 8 p.m. and are free and open to the public. “Raising awareness, building knowledge, and developing skills on multicultural interaction and communication is an important and on-going aspect of self-work that every individual should take it very seriously,” said Han, who provides leadership for the BGSU Office of Multicultural Affairs Diversity Education Program, and oversees the Ethnic Student Center and LGBTQ+ Resource Center Programs and Services. “We all have something to learn from each other. As we all come from different backgrounds, often times we don’t have the developed skills that allow us to engage each other with grace and productive ways,” Han said. “This workshop will help participants look at the topic of multicultural interaction and communication from a positive perspective, and empower each other on skill sets that enable them to carry-on and spread the caring spirit and knowledge in their community.” The first in the series is “The Power of Words: Microaggressions and How to Respond,” on Thursday, April 20. “This is a two-hour long workshop that provides critical reflection on perspectives of our past and an opportunity to look at past experiences in order to see how those experiences impact current thinking and behaviors in classroom, workplace and community,” Han said. “Through interactive presentation and activities, I hope participants begin to pay more attention on how past learned experiences and messages may still influences how we interact now, so that we can improve our interaction and communication with informed grace and compassion, carving space for us all to form connection, learn from each other and continue to grow together.” The second program, entitled “A Discussion of ‘Isms’” is Tuesday, May 17. The workshop is interactive and designed to be a springboard for discussions of the sensitive topics and issues around various –ism issues and to get participants thinking about assumptions, stereotypes, and choices. These topics are areas that can and do impact the community. This workshop utilizes the principle that every issue counts. “We benefit from hearing stories relating to life experiences, especially those who identified differently from us. We can shift attitudes and build allies,” NIOT stated about the program. The final program in the series on Thursday, June 1, is on “Safe Zone Training.” This workshop provides education concerning LGBTQ+ issues and seeks to improve the environment for LGBTQ+ people. “Safe Zone training is more important now than ever in the face of a changing political landscape and as we know more and more Bowling Green community members openly identify as LGBTQ+ than we have seen historically. The main goal of the workshop is to strengthen and…

Police officials address issues of force, race & more during “Real Cops” panel

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News The police in Bowling Green, either city or campus, don’t have to resort to using physical force very often. Bowling Green Police Chief Tony Hetrick said that in 90,000 interactions, officers on the BG force have used force 52 times, and BGSU Police Chief Monica Moll said her department’s experience was similar. Rodney Fleming, the managing attorney at Student Legal Services, said that if citizens looked at the statistics, they’d see how little physical force is used. Capt. Mike Campbell, who will be interim chief when Moll leaves BGSU at the end of the month, said that in looking at police conflicts that have been in the news, he sees faulty tactics in how the incidents were approached. More emphasis should be put on de-escalating a situation, and better communication, he said. They were part of the “It’s Just Us: Real Talk with Real Cops,” held Friday at Bowling Green State University, and sponsored by Not In Our Town. No matter how little force is used, all incidents are reported and looked at. “Even if it was a legal use of force,” Moll said, “maybe we could have used less.” Hetrick said each instance is looked at by more than one supervisor, including himself. “Nothing is going to be swept under the rug.” And, if citizens feel they have been unfairly treated, each department has a formal complaint process. If someone doesn’t trust the police to follow through, they can complain to other entities, Fleming said – city officials, his office, or Not In Our Town. Hetrick said those complaints will be taken seriously. “As police chief I want to know that’s going on.” The interactions between police and citizens are often tinged with distrust. Moll talked about the importance of following officers’ instructions. Citizens may know they are not a threat but the officer doesn’t. “There’s a lot of anxiety on both sides,” she said. “What I’m seeing is you have folks who have traditionally adversarial relationships with police and are going to be automatically nervous when police approach, and when police approach they may interpret that as something else that’s wrong.” Often tensions ease over the course of a stop, she said. Ana Brown of resident life, who moderated the discussion, noted that “for a lot of us who are people of color, we don’t see that we necessarily get that time that white people do in a traffic stop.” Law enforcement is trying to address this with training on implicit bias. Police are required, Hetrick said, to undergo such training, to help recognize attitudes that may interfere with performing their duties. The state started mandating this training two years ago. The point, he said, “is to make sure we are in fact treating everyone fairly when we are out enforcing the law, that we are not letting these things affect how we do that.” Everyone, Moll said, has their own set of expectations and biases. “We all see the world through our own lens. … The key is to recognize what they are and when they might be impacting their official duties because we want officers to be fair and impartial.” Later in the session, the panel was asked about the perception by African Americans in Bowling Green that they are stopped for…