By Laura Swanson
Over 20 community members came together yesterday evening, October 3rd to make plans for the future of the Oregon Coast Love Coalition. LaNicia Williams, founder of OCLC, had scheduled this meeting at the North Country Recreation District (NCRD) weeks ago to begin planning for the group’s Martin Luther King events in 2018 and to announce plans for an inclusive urban/rural summer camp program. The first agenda item that Williams addressed was the recent racial/hate graffiti found at the NCRD skate ramp last week.
Meeting attendees included community leaders, from the City of Nehalem and NCRD. John Coopersmith, NCRD board member called for diversity training at NCRD and throughout the community. Dale Shaffer, Nehalem city manager emphasized the City’s support for the efforts and zero tolerance for hate speech. “We are disturbed and outraged that this has happened here,” Shaffer said. The mayor, Bill Dillard, Shaffer and city council have all pledged $100 toward the reward to find out who did this. The reward for information leading to identifying suspect(s) is now over $1,000. There have been comments about “over-reacting” to the graffiti, such as “kids will be kids”, but the words used and the possibility that it targeted a local youth make it more insidious. “My son, my family and I don’t feel safe here anymore,” stated the mother of the biracial youth. “And this is just the latest incident. This has been going on for over a year, and is going on throughout our communities,” she added.
All in attendance agreed that better outreach and education was needed throughout the community – in particular in the schools. Williams suggested a “train the trainers” event utilizing local connections. “My aunt is a nationally recognized diversity trainer and I could ask her come here, but I think we have the people and the resources here to get this accomplished,” said Williams. A widely used elementary education curriculum “Teaching Tolerance” is available for free from the Southern Poverty Law Center, and representatives from the Lower Columbia Diversity Coalition offered assistance and resources.
“A year ago when the county commissioners made their resolution about no discrimination, those were just words, and now, we need action,” said Williams. “We need love to overcome the hate that exists in our community, and we need to acknowledge that it exists and not bury or pretend it isn’t there.” Pastor Steve Wolf of Nehalem Bay United Methodist Church commented, “This has created relationships and brought us all together, and we need to continue the dialogue.” The community is invited to continue this conversation about race, culture and diversity at the Nehalem Bay Methodist Church at 6 pm on Tuesday, October 10th.
The Oregon Coast Love Coalition plans for a “day of service” on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, January 15, 2108. A partnership with Habitat for Humanity to assist local seniors, veterans and others with home repairs is envisioned, followed by a community lunch. Other events and community partners are being identified for the possibility of a weekend of MLK events. Future plans for a summer camp that pairs local children with inner city kids of other races for camping, outdoor activities and discoveries will be an important part of expanding experiences for the community and our children. “We can learn from each other, and so many city kids don’t get to go camping or fishing, out on a boat,” said Williams. “Then our children can see that we aren’t any different.”