By Rosaland Tyler
New Journal and Guide
Many individuals nationwide are busy trying to heal hate; although hate crimes are increasing according to numerous reports including one by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which said the number of hate crimes reported to the FBI increased by 30 percent over the past four years.One recent healing effort happened on Aug. 11 in Dayton. Singer John Legend walked alongside Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley through Dayton’s entertainment district where a lone gunman killed nine people on Aug. 4 in 32 seconds.
“I just wanted to support Dayton and this area,” Legend said, walking alongside Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley as part of an initiative to encourage patrons to visit the neighborhood. “I grew up in Springfield. We were all struck by this tragedy.”
At a news conference, Legend spoke about the need to change the nation’s gun laws. Later, he performed at a concert for an invited crowd of first responders and people affected by the shooting.
That same day in Dayton, professionals in the healing arts provided guided meditations for groups and individuals at a four-hour “Trauma Relief and Healing Workshop.” There were sessions devoted to yoga and pranic healing, massages and reiki. Organizations that provided services included Vegan Dayton, Heartfulness Dayton, and Illuminate Dayton, according to news reports.
Singer Lady Gaga got involved in the healing effort in Dayton. Her foundation has fully funded all Dayton-area school crowdfunding projects, along with projects from schools in Gilroy, Calif., and El Paso, Texas. All three communities experienced mass shootings in the past two weeks. The foundation Gaga established is managed by the crowdfunding website Donors Choose,
According to the Donors Choose site, the requests Lady Gaga funded included a classroom table in Mad River schools, an area rug at a Clayton elementary, books at the Miami Valley Academies charter school, and a table and soft chairs at the Richard Allen charter school in Dayton. Some of those projects had already been partially funded via regular crowdfunding donors, and Gaga’s foundation covered the rest of the cost.
In El Paso, two band members wrote and are performing a song outside of Walmart by a makeshift memorial for 22 of its residents who were killed on Aug. 3 in a mass shooting.
Josue Rodriguez, 23, an aspiring singer-songwriter, said it took him no more than two hours to write the song, according to news reports. He performed the song with his bandmate and cousin, Israel Cuevas, 17. He called the song “The corrido of a Tragedy in El Paso, Texas.”
“I started seeing how people were really affected by this tragedy, so I go home later that night and I just have my guitar and I started writing,” Rodriguez said.
In Charleston, S.C., last month, Pulitzer-Prize winning investigative reporter Jennifer Berry Hawes, who is white, discussed her new book at Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. Hawes examines the June 17, 2015 massacre’s impact on the nation, race relations and on survivors who are still struggling to cope with their losses, in her book, “Grace Will Lead Us Home: The Charleston Church Massacre and the Hard, Inspiring Journey to Forgiveness.”
In a recent tweet, shortly after the mass shootings in Dayton and El Paso, Hawes tweeted, “Interesting to see some of the grieving in El Paso and Dayton responding as did many in Charleston after the Mother Emanuel massacre – with forgiveness.”
Proceeds from the sale of her book will fund a minority reporting internship at The Post and Courier, where Hawes spent a decade covering religion and now works on a team that handles in-depth investigative reporting projects for the paper.
Ironically, another healing effort is underway in Birmingham, at the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracked 1,020 active hate groups in 2018, according to its website. This past February, the organization released its annual report, which found a 30 percent increase in U.S. hate groups over the past four years and a 7 percent increase in hate groups in 2018 alone. The report is titled, “Year in Hate and Extremism.” The 1,020 organizations that were designated as hate groups in 2018 represented a high of at least 20 years.
The point is it was also necessary to launch a healing effort at this organization in late March. Specifically, Karen Baynes-Dunning, an African-American woman and a former juvenile court judge was appointed interim president, after some complained the organization has a toxic workplace culture that discriminates against women and people of color.
Dunning replaced the organization’s fired co-founder Morris Dees, 82, who helped launch the organization in 1971 as watchdog for minorities and the under privileged. A decade later he won a $7 million judgment against the United Klans of America on behalf of Beulah Mae Donald, whose son was murdered by KKK members in Mobile.
According to news reports, the ousted founder, longtime president, and legal director, faced allegations of improper touching that made subordinates feel uncomfortable and inappropriate comments.
Current and former staffers said while the SPLC focuses on social justice, it has wrestled internally with a lack of inclusion and a management structure that concentrated power.
“While there might have been increased diversity over the years, there was still not equity, and there is still not inclusion,” Dana Vickers Shelley told PBS. She was a director of public affairs at SPLC from November 2012 to March 2014 and is now executive director of the ACLU of Maryland. “You can hire faces. You can say, ‘Look, we’re diverse,’ but if the decisions are still being made by the white people in leadership, then you do not have inclusion.”
Dunning, who now heads the organization, said the organization is healing by focusing on first acknowledging what went wrong.
“I’m acknowledging the fact that we didn’t pay attention to the internal culture,” she said. “You know … as a woman of color I realize that, in my own experience, we deal with micro-aggressions in the greater society every single day.”
Dunning added, “When you come and work for an organization like the Southern Poverty Law Center, especially for people of color, women, you don’t expect this organization to mirror what we see out in the greater society.”