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“Hate Crimes in the Heartland” stirs important talk about race in US

Malorie Marshall | 2/11/2014, 10:46 p.m.
City College Center for the Arts hosts a viewing of the documentary "Hate Crimes in the Heartland," about two hate ...
"Hate Crimes in the Heartland" panel discussion and question-and-answer session was held at City College Center for the Arts. Daphne Leblanc

On Good Friday in 2012, one white and one Native American man in Tulsa, Okla. rode around town shooting black people, injuring two and killing three. According to the affidavit filed by the Tulsa Police Department, the father of the Native American shooter was killed by a black man two years prior to the Good Friday shootings.

In 1921, whites in Tulsa completely decimated the thriving “Black Wall Street” by burning down businesses, homes and killing black residents. According to survivors, a black man tripped while walking into an elevator and bumped a white woman, who then screamed that she’d been assaulted.

“When the Good Friday murders happened, I leaned forward and realized this is a bookend,” said Rachel Lyon, writer and producer of the documentary ‘Hate Crimes in the Heartland’ in a panel discussion. “This is 90 years of hate crimes in one city that kind of represents America.”

The F.B.I. reported almost 6,000 hate crimes in the U.S. during 2012. Of those, about 50 percent were racially motivated.

City College Center for the Arts recently hosted a viewing of the hour-long documentary, followed by a panel discussion by Lyon, co-producer Pi-Isis Ankhra, Dr. Marta Moreno Vega, founder of the Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute, CCNY student and activist Veronica Agard and writer and CNN contributor Michaela Angela Davis.

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Daphne Leblanc

The panel following "Hate Crimes in the Heartland" was moderated by CCNY professor R. L’Heureux Lewis-McCoy. Panelists featured were (L to R): filmmaker Rachel Lyon, CCNY student activist Veronica Agard, CNN contributor Michaela Angela Davis and Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute founder Dr. Marta Moreno Vega.

Approximately 200 guests were in attendance and participated in the discussion. Panelists challenged the crowd to step outside the conventional ways that racism and other problems are discussed in the United States.

“It’s incumbent upon us to think differently about the realities that we have experienced as a people and continue to experience as a people,” Dr. Marta Vega said. “Because I think that one of the things that’s happening is that as our young people get privileged they want to forget.”

The evening’s event fell on the 15th anniversary of the shooting of Amadou Diallo, who was killed by the NYPD in front of his Bronx home, and a day before what would have been the 19th birthday of Trayvon Martin, who was killed in 2012 by George Zimmerman while walking back to his Sanford, Fla. home.

Similar events have made the news lately. Renisha McBride. Jonathan Ferrell. Jordan Davis.

“We have to invest in things getting better, and that means believing that they will,” Michaela Angela Davis said. “So when we have these conversations, the intention is to be active, not to stay in the struggle but to move the struggle into strategy and into solution.”

Former Queensborough Community College student and event attendee Ansley Moncoeur has hope that his generation won’t want to forget, but will invest in helping to move things forward.

“I think that it’s going to be a long progress… like all we’re talking about now is about what the media’s pumping; TMZ, MTV, Real Housewives, you know we just go with the trends,” Moncoeur, 21, said. “I think we’re gonna get there, but it’s gonna take a lot of work, a lot of, you know, self-realization too ‘cause, people don’t know too much about themselves. They seem very lost.”