Monday, May 09, 2005

Going down to Davis

I'm scheduled to give a talk on hate crimes this Thursday in Davis, California, that's being sponsored by the city's Human Rights Commission and Blacks for Effective Community Action, a local civil-rights group that has a long history in Davis, as well a couple of local congregations.

Titled "So What's a Hate Crime Anyway? The ABCs of Hate Crimes," it will be at 7 p.m. at the University Covenant Church, 315 Mace Blvd. I'll talk for about half an hour or 45 minutes, take questions for another 45 or so, and then sign books. Copies of Death on the Fourth of July will be available.

I'll also be talking to young people earlier in the day at one of the local high schools.

I've posted previously on the situation in Davis. Since then, there have been other assessments, including a scathing account in the San Francisco Chronicle.

More recently, a couple of young black men from Davis have caught people's attention with a film they produced:
"We had this idea of making a film to reach people across the board, not just a certain group of people," said Rodrigo Ojeda-Beck, who with students Tanvir Kapoor and Paul Donahue recently completed a film described in fliers as showing the "face of hate in Davis."

The three Davis Senior High School students joined forces last summer to piece together a portrait of what they called their "Leave It to Beaver" town.

The film, which remains untitled, juxtaposes images of happy suburbia with dark portrayals of racism.

"In a lot of ways Davis is viewed as a "Leave It to Beaver" town ... like the town is perfect," Ojeda-Beck said.

"Davis is a great town, but even in a great town you still have those dark secrets you don't want to see."

To assemble the film, the youths spent hours poring over footage of Davis community meetings where racism was discussed. They collected articles on racism and masterfully wove the headlines into the film's text.

They shot film of students in classrooms. They cut and re-edited and scoured online archives for footage of civil rights marches and footage of stories on Davis from the Comedy Central cable channel.

At the end of February, they completed a version of the film they felt was ready to air. About a day later, another act of racist vandalism occurred in Davis that captured headlines.

An accompanying story describes how the film came about, and how it has apparently sparked a healthy and long-overdue discussion. I'm hoping my appearances can help advance the same spirit of discourse.

Also, be sure to check out Davis HateWatch, a blog by Berkeley professor Neil Henry, who lives in Davis and was involved as a victim in one of the vandalism hate crimes.

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