Not In Our Town helps communities reduce hate crimes and racism

8 mins read
Not In Our Town shows communities how to fight hate, bullying and racism.

Hate crimes and racism are inflamed by political polarization and social media.

Strong communities with traditional American values of inclusion and civil discourse counteract these dark forces, but they need guidance and help – especially in the aftermath of a mass shooting.

Not In Our Town are master storytellers. Their stories are about everyday people standing up to hate and transforming their communities. These resources are freely shared to build awareness and help other communities develop strategies to stop hate, address bullying and be more inclusive.

This blog describes NIOT’s approach to strengthening communities and their response after the horrific mass shootings at:
– Sikh Temple in Milwaukee, Wisconsin (2012)
– Jewish Community Center in Overland Park, Kansas  (2018)
– Ebenezer Baptist Church in Charlotte South Carolina (2015)

Upstander vs Bystander

Not In Our Town (NIOT) campaigns bring together stakeholders from different aspects of civic life—school, community, law enforcement, media and faith leaders—to prevent hate incidents. NIOT encourages cross-constituency engagement that gives everyone a voice and leads to more inclusion. Bystander behavior must be addressed and that any single person can become an “upstander” to support victims; and that positive stories can offer solutions and help shift community norms.

Oak Creek, Wisconsin

“A mass shooting took place at the gurdwara (Sikh temple) in Oak Creek, WisconsinUnited States where six people were fatally shot  and four others wounded on August 5, 2012. The 40  year old killer was an American white supremacist and Army veteran from Cudahy, Wisconsin. Apart from the shooter, all of the dead were members of the Sikh faith.” – Wikipedia

NIOT film: “As the Sikh community in Oak Creek, Wisconsin prepares for Sunday prayers, a deadly hate attack shatters their lives, but not their resilience. After six worshipers are killed by a white supremacist, the local community finds inspiration in the Sikh tradition of forgiveness and faith. Lieutenant Murphy, shot 15 times in the attack, joins the mayor and police chief as they forge new bonds with the Sikh community. Young temple members, still grieving, emerge as leaders in the quest to end the violence. In the year following the tragedy, thousands gather for vigils and community events to honor the victims and seek connection. Together, a community rocked by hate is awakened and transformed by the Sikh spirit of relentless optimism.”

Watch the video

Overland Park, Kansas

“Kansas Jewish Center Shooting Suspect Identified as Former KKK Leader. Three people were killed in shootings at two separate locations. The 73-year-old man charged with murder in the shooting at a Jewish community center and retirement community in Overland Park, Kansas, that left three people dead is reportedly the former Grand Dragon of the Carolina Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.” – ABC

While there was broad media coverage of the devastating hate crime killings of three people at Jewish centers in Overland Park, KS, the story of the powerful actions of local community members to respond to these crimes went largely unreported in the national media. Four days after the attack, local teens led a candlelight vigil to remember the victims and affirm their sense of community. They were joined by more than 3,000 people of all backgrounds and ages. NIOT recorded how young people took the lead in bringing people together.

Not In Our Town helps Overland Park, Kansas City fight hate crimes, racism and anti-semitism.
Watch the video

Charleston, South Carolina

“The Charleston church shooting (also known as the Charleston church massacre) was a mass shooting on June 17, 2015, in Charleston, South Carolina, in which nine African Americans were killed during a Bible study at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. Among those people who were killed was the senior pastor, state senatorClementa C. Pinckney; three victims survived. This church is one of the oldest black churches in the United States, and it has long been a center for organizing events which are related to civil rights.” – Wikipedia

Not In Our Town traveled to Charleston, SC to document stories from the community in the days after the horrific hate crime attack that took the lives of nine members of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church on June 17, 2015. This short video is designed to prompt reflection and discussion for community and faith groups about how we can take local action in response to hate.

Not In Our Town helps Charleston, North Carolina fights racism and hate crimes.
Watch the video

Not In Our Town

Patrice O’Neill is the Executive Producer at Not In Our Town. She is an award-winning media producer and co-founder of the Oakland-based non-profit The Working Group, a media production company.

Not In Our Town has documented hundreds of community response and proactive efforts to prevent hate and address intolerance over the last 25 years. It also plays a direct role with schools and communities by providing hands-on support, tools, training, and coaching. It began in 1995 with a national PBS special that told the story of how citizens of Billings, Montana joined forces to respond to hate crimes in their town. The program set a new standard for television impact, launching screenings and town hall meetings in hundreds of communities nationwide. The first campaign mobilized faith-based organizations, non-profits, law enforcement agencies, educators, public TV stations, labor representatives and many other stakeholders to organize anti-hate actions in local communities.

Locals in Billings were surprised by the attention the town’s actions received. “These are our neighbors,” union organizer Rand Siemers said. “If someone throws a brick into your neighbor’s house, in Montana you run out there and try to stop them. Don’t they do that anywhere else in the country?” – Wikipedia

Download the NIOT GUIDE TO build SAFE, resilient communitiessupport not in our town

TakeAway: Now more than ever, there is a need to strengthen community values and civil discourse. Use NIOT materials and support their efforts to produce more content. Thank you.


Mass shootings are made worse by politicians, easy access to assault weapons and vitriol on social media.

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