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Change Only Happens When We Come Together

A visit to the Museum of Tolerance and to 3 World's Cafe taught us that change only happens when we come together.

Growing up in a low-income community, it's easy to see first-hand what the effects of prejudice really look like. We have neighborhoods and schools that are still segregated, gang violence, and we live in food deserts. It feels like no one cares about our suffering and that people who have more are fine with our communities being this way. And when you turn on the news, you only hear that we are lazy, violent, and uneducated. They say we're a menace to society. This week, spending time at the Museum of Tolerance on Los Angeles' Westside and at 3 Worlds Cafe in South Los Angeles made us reflect on how the kind of hatred that created the Holocaust affects our community today.


We walked into the Museum of Tolerance knowing about the Holocaust, but we learned much more about how the Nazis portrayed the Jews in a negative way in newspapers, in movies, on posters, and on the radio. They would compare Jews to rats and stereotyped them as greedy, dirty, and the cause of all of Germany’s problems. Hitler then started a movement to terrorize the Jews, trashing their stores, breaking their windows, and beating them up. They then started rounding them up and putting them on trains to send them to concentration camps where they were starved, worked to death, and killed.

The scariest part of the day was going through the museum's fake gas chambers. It was scary to put ourselves in the Jews' shoes and not know whether you were going to survivor or not. We also didn’t expect to meet Gita Nagel, an Auschwitz survivor. She was visiting the museum and rolled up her sleeve to show us the tattoo of her prison camp number. We each wanted to just hug her and tell her that we are sorry for what happened to her as a child.

In our communities we aren't being starved or worked to death, and we can't compare our experience to the Holocaust. But it did make us think about the way poor black and Latino people are portrayed in the media. For example, just as the Nazis claimed that Jews were taking all the jobs, immigrant Mexicans are portrayed in the media as taking jobs from hard-working Americans. During our visit to 3 Worlds Cafe, founder Aqeela Sherrills, who helped create the 1992 peace treaty between the Bloods and Crips gangs, also challenged us to think about how the media will report differently about three kids being killed instead three gang members, even if those gang members are just teenagers.

Sherrills told us about growing up in the projects in Watts and how back in the late 1980s, there were over 1,100 deaths per year in Los Angeles. South Los Angeles had so much gang violence, it was like a war zone. Now, thanks to community activists and peace efforts, there are 300-400 murders every year.

How did Sherrills get out of the gang? He ended up attending Cal State Northridge, where he fell in love with a girl, but he had a lot of insecurity and self-esteem issues. He thought he was ugly and because he'd grown up poor, he didn't think he was as good as other students. It wasn't until he was able to be honest and start dealing with being sexually abused as a child that he started to heal. His own healing made him reflect on his community and how kids there were suffering.

One of his professors gave him two books, The Autobiography of Malcolm X and James Baldwin's The Evidence of Things Not Seen. He also educated himself about the Black Power Movement. Sherrill’s brother got a copy of the peace accord between Israel and Palestine that was drafted by Nobel Peace Prize winner and former South Los Angeles resident Ralph Bunche. They changed the names of the countries to the names of the housing projects and got the gang leaders to sign it.

Being at the Museum of Tolerance, meeting Gita Nagel, and meeting Aqeela Sherrills made us feel hopeful. It made us feel that change is possible in our communities if we all, no matter what our race or ethnicity may be, come together.

Want to mentor a student from a low income community? Click here to say you'll do it.

Desiray Figueroa and Airren Kirk are two members of the Pathfinder Fellowship, a joint effort of GOOD/Corps and The California Endowment. They're working as interns with GOOD's community team.

Cafe wall image courtesy of 3 Worlds Cafe

Articles
via Collection of the New-York Historical Society / Wikimedia Commons

Fredrick Douglass was born into slavery in 1818. At the age of 10 he was given to the Auld family.

As a child, he worked as a house slave and was able to learn to read and write, and he attempted to teach his fellow slaves the same skills.

At the age of 15, he was given to Thomas Auld, a cruel man who beat and starved his slaves and thwarted any opportunity for them to practice their faith or to learn to read or write.

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via Thomas Ledia / Wikimedia Commons

On April 20, 1889 at the Braunau am Inn, in Upper Austria Salzburger located at Vorstadt 15, Alois and Klara Hitler brought a son into the world. They named him Adolph.

Little did they know he would grow up to be one of the greatest forces of evil the world has ever known.

The Hitlers moved out of the Braunau am Inn when Adolph was three, but the three-story butter-colored building still stands. It has been the subject of controversy for seven decades.

via Thomas Ledia / Wikimedia Commons

The building was a meeting place for Nazi loyalists in the 1930s and '40s. After World War II, the building has become an informal pilgrimage site for neo-Nazis and veterans to glorify the murderous dictator.

The building was a thorn in the side to local government and residents to say the least.

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For years it was owned by Gerlinde Pommer, a descendant of the original owners. The Austrian government made numerous attempts to purchase it from her, but to no avail. The building has served many purposes, a school, a library, and a makeshift museum.

In 1989, a stone from the building was inscribed with:

"For Peace, Freedom

and Democracy.

Never Again Fascism.

Millions of Dead Remind [us]."

via Jo Oh / Wikimedia Commons

For three decades it was home to an organization that offered support and integration assistance for disabled people. But in 2011, the organization vacated the property because Pommer refused to bring it up to code.

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In 2017, the fight between the government and Pommer ended with it seizing the property. Authorities said it would get a "thorough architectural remodeling is necessary to permanently prevent the recognition and the symbolism of the building."

Now, the government intends to turn it into a police station which will surely deter any neo-Nazis from hanging around the building.

Austria has strict anti-Nazi laws that aim to prohibit any potential Nazi revival. The laws state that anyone who denies, belittles, condones or tries to justify the Nazi genocide or other Nazi crimes against humanity shall be punished with imprisonment for one year up to ten years.

In Austria the anti-Nazi laws are so strict one can go to prison for making the Nazi hand salute or saying "Heil Hitler."

"The future use of the house by the police should send an unmistakable signal that the role of this building as a memorial to the Nazis has been permanently revoked," Austria's IInterior Minister, Wolfgang Peschorn said in a statement.

The house is set to be redesigned following an international architectural competition.

Communities
via Chela Horsdal / Twitter

Amazon's "The Man in the High Castle" debuted the first episode of its final season last week.

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via Mike Mozart / Flickr

Chick-fil-A is the third-largest fast food chain in America, behind McDonald's and Starbucks, raking in over $10 billion a year.

But for years, the company has faced boycotts for supporting anti-LGBT charities, including the Salvation Army, the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and the Paul Anderson Youth Home.

The Salvation Army faced criticism after a leader in the organization implied that gay people "deserve to die" and the company also came under fire after refusing to offer same-sex couples health insurance. But the organization swears it's evolving on such issues.

via Thomas Hawk / Flickr

The Fellowship of Christian Athletes explicitly announced it was anti gay marriage in a recent "Statement of Faith."

God instituted marriage between one man and one woman as the foundation of the family and the basic structure of human society. For this reason, we believe that marriage is exclusively the union of one man and one woman.

The Paul Anderson Youth Home teaches boys that homosexuality is wrong and that same-sex marriage is "rage against Jesus Christ and His values."

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In 2012, Chick-fil-A's CEO, Dan Cathy, made anti same-sex marriage comments on a radio broadcast:

I think we are inviting God's judgment on our nation when we shake our fist at Him and say, "We know better than you as to what constitutes a marriage". I pray God's mercy on our generation that has such a prideful, arrogant attitude to think that we have the audacity to define what marriage is about.

But the chicken giant has now decided to change it's says its charitable donation strategy because it's bad for business...Not because being homophobic is wrong.

The company recently lost several bids to provide concessions in U.S. airports. A pop-up shop in England was told it would not be renewed after eight days following LGBTQ protests.

Chick-fil-A also has plans to expand to Boston, Massachusetts where its mayor, Thomas Menino, pledged to ban the restaurant from the city.

via Wikimedia Commons

"There's no question we know that, as we go into new markets, we need to be clear about who we are," Chick-fil-A President and Chief Operating Officer Tim Tassopoulos told Bisnow. "There are lots of articles and newscasts about Chick-fil-A, and we thought we needed to be clear about our message."

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Instead, the Chick-fil-A Foundation plans to give $9 million to organizations that support education and fight homelessness. Which is commendable regardless of the company's troubled past.

"If Chick-Fil-A is serious about their pledge to stop holding hands with divisive anti-LGBTQ activists, then further transparency is needed regarding their deep ties to organizations like Focus on the Family, which exist purely to harm LGBTQ people and families," Drew Anderson, GLAAD's director of campaigns and rapid response, said in a statement.

Chick-fil-A's decision to back down from contributing to anti-LGBT charities shows the power that people have to fight back against companies by hitting them where it really hurts — the pocket book.

The question remains: If you previously avoided Chick-fil-A because it supported anti-LGBT organizations, is it now OK to eat there? Especially when Popeye's chicken sandwich is so good people will kill for it?

Lifestyle

Oh, irony. You are having quite a day.

The Italian region of Veneto, which includes the city of Venice, is currently experiencing historic flooding. Venice Mayor Luigi Brugnaro has stated that the flooding is a direct result of climate change, with the tide measuring the highest level in 50 years. The city (which is actually a collection of 100 islands in a lagoon—hence its famous canal streets), is no stranger to regular flooding, but is currently on the brink of declaring a state of emergency as waters refuse to recede.

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