Green, yellow and white posters emblazoned with the slogan “Not In Our Town” are being plastered around North Hempstead as part of a new effort to combat hate, intolerance and violence within the town.
The posters are aimed at fostering “a real sense of unity in our town,” Supervisor Judi Bosworth said last week at a forum in New Hyde Park.
In the past few months, several hate crimes have shocked the Nassau community of about 226,000 people. Swastikas were found etched in the snow in Mineola and spray-painted at Port Washington’s Paul D. Schreiber Senior High School. The Mid-Island Y Jewish Community Center in Plainview was among about 100 centers nationwide that received bomb threats.
Community and religious leaders have been mobilizing to stand against hate. The latest town forum, held Thursday at Clinton G. Martin Park, brought together multiple panelists, including Dr. Isma Chaudhry, president of the Westbury-based Islamic Center of Long Island, and Joselo Lucero, brother of Marcelo Lucero, an Ecuadorean immigrant who was slain in 2008 in Patchogue in a hate crime.
The resounding message shared by all the panelists was for residents to stand up against intolerance and indifference when they see it.
Lucero spoke of how his life changed seismically following his brother’s racially charged murder by a group of teenagers. He said that he also never had to be an advocate before, but that now it is up to everybody to take accountability.
“It’s not about playing the hot potato anymore. It’s about caring for your neighbor,” Lucero said. “Now is the crucial time, when my community is being targeted, the Muslim community is being targeted, the minority community is being targeted.”
One New Hyde Park resident asked the panelists how to fight back without legitimizing hate speech. Chaudhry responded that it was imperative to take a stance.
“Whoever it’s against, please speak up,” she said. “Nobody should tolerate demonization of anyone.”
The Rev. Dyanne Pina, director of the Long Island Council of Churches, emphasized that sometimes racism and hate speech remain unspoken.
“Let’s look at the elephant in the room,” Pina said. “Once we can be OK about being integrated . . . the fear, the bitterness and the hate can sometimes be subdued.”