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February 6, 2008 > Forum to reflect on hate-free community and tolerance

Forum to reflect on hate-free community and tolerance

By Sam Rao
Photos By Sam Rao

The "State of City Forum," organized by the Fremont Alliance for a Hate-Free Community, will be held on Monday, Feb. 11, at the Fremont Congregational Church. Slated speakers include Fremont Mayor Bob Wasserman, City Manager Fred Diaz, Superintendent Doug Gephart, and Fremont Human Relations Vice Chairman Raj Salwan. Also present will be other city and state elected officials and commissioners. The event, which is free and open to the public, will also have a session for comments from the community. Invited speaker Fremont Police Chief Craig Steckler is scheduled to be in New Hampshire that day and confirmed that he will send Police Captain Bob Nelson to represent the Fremont Police Department.

"The forum was established after the alliance, formerly known as 'Not In Our Town' (NIOT), changed its name to 'Fremont Alliance for a Hate-Free Community,' and decided to establish a forum to include a panel of city and school district leaders sharing their sense of the state of the city, as it relates to the mission of the group," said organizer Pastor Jeff Spencer of the Niles Congregational Church. "We expect about 50 people at the meeting, which has become an annual affair in the city of Fremont, with Mayor Wasserman attending every year," Spencer added.

The mission statement of the alliance states, "The group is dedicated to making Fremont a safe, welcoming place where everyone is respected and protected, regardless of their actual or perceived age, religion, race, gender, creed, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, mental or physical disability, or any other manifestation of beautiful human diversity." Their mandate is also to educate and collaborate with other groups to make Fremont a more peaceful place.

The alliance, which is primarily centered in Fremont, often forms "Working Groups" to deal with issues members may bring up from time to time. Some of the groups are Mental Health Group, which works to de-stigmatize mental illness in the wider community; School Safety & Violence Prevention Act Working Group; PTA Working Group to use the "Let's Get Real" video to address the issues of bullying at schools, which culminated in "No Name Calling Week." Other working groups include the Cross Cultural Education Working Group, which targets Fremont Unified School District's cross cultural education, and the Community Educational Forum.

Some of the achievements of the group include working with the Fremont Human Rights Commission to create the "Our Community - We All Belong" forum held on Jan. 11,2007 at Irvington High School; encouraging the county school district to hold a forum focusing on curriculum in schools and participation in the July 4parade. Some of the group's discussions have centered on hate crimes in and around Fremont, including racial taunting and similar incidents such as hate- related defacing, graffiti problems and violence in schools.

However, the group is not without controversy. Recently, several attendees protested that their opinions regarding immigration were not being heard and claimed that "tolerance should extend to all points of view" which led to some soul searching among alliance members and reconsideration of the mission statement and objectives. The basic mission of the group is inclusiveness, tolerance and promoting a sense of community. This appears to resonate with the community and city leadership.

State of the City Forum
Monday, Feb 11
7 p.m.
Fremont Congregational Church
38255 Blacow Rd., Fremont
(510) 793-3970

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