Response to racist activity includes talk by former Somali prime minister

A Jan. 15 lecture by a former prime minister of Somalia is one of a series of events that is to be presented in response to the World Church of the Creator, a national white supremacist and anti-Semitic organization that plans to protest Somali immigration in a Jan. 11 meeting in Lewiston.

The college, which is working with the Lewiston-Auburn community to schedule programs that oppose hatred and bias, also plans teach-ins on Jan. 8 and 10. All three events are open to the public at no charge.

At 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 15, in the college’s Edmund S. Muskie Archives, on Campus Avenue, former Somali Prime Minister Ali Khalif Galaydh discusses the past, present and future of his native country. Galaydh, a visiting professor at the Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota, served the Somali government in a variety of positions and became prime minister following the 2000 Somali National Peace Conference, serving until December 2001.

The first teach-in is a three-hour discussion and training session on nonviolent political action sponsored by the 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.

Presenters include 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. He was lead counsel in the civil rights litigation stemming from the Greensboro 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.

The second teach-in, 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 of the Center for the Prevention of Hate Violence, and Kelvin Datcher, outreach coordinator for the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), will discuss contemporary U.S. hate groups.

The Center for the Prevention of Hate Violence, at the University of Southern Maine, is committed to making schools and workplaces safer by developing innovative ways to help stakeholders reduce the bias, prejudice and harassment that leads to violence, and by helping schools and communities respond to hate crimes.

SPLC is a nonprofit organization that combats hate, intolerance and discrimination through education and litigation.

The teach-ins will also take place at the Muskie Archives.

At the Humphrey Institute, Galaydh teaches about the politics of public affairs, strategies for economic development and the role of nongovernmental organizations in governance. He supports the outreach mission of the Humphrey Institute by working with the Minneapolis Somali community, the largest in the United States.

Galaydh was an official in the Ministry of the Interior during Somalia’s last democratically elected government, in the mid-1960s. During the 1970s, he headed two large sugar-processing operations before being appointed minister of industry in 1980. He was one of 650 delegates at the 2000 Somali National Peace Conference, held in Djibouti, and served as prime minister from September 2000 until December 2001.

In keeping with an egalitarian tradition pre-dating the Civil War, Bates has helped welcome Somali immigrants to the Lewiston area and has participated readily in efforts to show that hate and prejudice have no haven in this community. In an open letter soliciting ideas and participation, former Chaplain Kerry Maloney, former Dean of the College James Carignan and former 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.”

[For more information about Bates’ response to the WCC, visit the Bates College Community Information & Action Resource Page.]

[See a slideshow of the Bates-hosted diversity rally on Jan. 11 at Merrill Gymnasium.]

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