Bates offers workshops in response to racist group

In response to a Jan. 11 meeting in Lewiston planned by the World Church of the Creator, a national white supremacist and anti-Semitic organization, Bates College is working with the Lewiston-Auburn community to schedule alternative programs to oppose hatred and bias. While a variety of responses are under consideration, Bates has planned two teach-ins, both open to the public at no charge, in the Edmund S. Muskie Archives, Campus Avenue.

The first scheduled teach-in provides a three-hour discussion and training session on nonviolent political action sponsored by the Bates College Multicultural Center. Beginning at 6 p.m., Wednesday, Jan. 8, the gathering features presentations by three activists, two of whom are connected to the 1979 tragedy known as the “Greensboro Massacre.” A car caravan of 40 Ku Klux Klan and American Nazis attacked and opened fire on 100 men, women and children preparing for an anti-KKK march in North Carolina. Several in the crowd were wounded and five were killed.

Greensboro Justice Fund (GJF) founder and trustee Lewis Pitts, senior managing attorney for legal services of North Carolina’s Advocates for Children’s Services department, was lead counsel in the civil rights litigation stemming from the massacre. GJF assists grassroots organizations in working for racial justice and economic empowerment.

Also scheduled to appear is Signe Waller, a GJF trustee and author of the book “Love & Revolution: A Political Memoir: People’s History of the Greensboro Massacre, Its Setting and Aftermath,” (Rowman & Littlefield, 2002). She was an eyewitness to the 1979 attack in which her husband, Jim Waller, was murdered.

The third participant, attorney Dexter Wimbish, serves as the national program director of the Center for Democratic Renewal (CDR), founded in 1979 as the National Anti-Klan Network. CDR serves as a national clearinghouse for research-based advocacy designed to counter the effects of racism and bigotry. For more information about the nonviolence workshop, call 207-786-8215.

The second workshop, titled “The Ideology of Hate: Past and Present,” will be offered at 4:15 p.m., Friday, Jan. 10. Professor of History Steve Hochstadt, who teaches about the Holocaust of European Jewry, will explore perspectives of the past. Steve Wessler, director, Center for the Prevention of Hate Violence, University of Southern Maine, and Kelvin Datcher, outreach coordinator, Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), will discuss contemporary U.S. hate groups.

The USM center is committed to making schools and workplaces safer by developing innovative ways to help educators, students, healthcare professionals and others intervene to reduce the bias, prejudice and harassment that leads to violence, and by assisting schools and communities in responding to hate crimes. SPLC is a nonprofit organization that combats hate, intolerance and discrimination through education and litigation. For more information about the workshop, call 207-786-6202.

In an open letter soliciting ideas and participation, Chaplain Kerry Maloney, Dean of the College James Carignan and Dean of Students Celeste Branham thanked the Bates community for reaffirming the college’s commitment to issues of “social justice and respect for the dignity of every person. We will continue to work together to oppose any group or person who aims to incite hatred, bias, violence and division within our community.”

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