Photo info: Filmmaker Patrice O’Neill takes questions at the 418 Project in downtown Santa Cruz in November 2022 following the screening of her film “Repairing the World: Stories from the Tree of Life.” The screening was last year’s final event in Santa Cruz’s United Against Hate Week, spearheaded by Santa Cruz County United for Safe and Inclusive Communities. (Shmuel Thaler — Santa Cruz Sentinel file)
SANTA CRUZ — Aiming to respond to community biases and intolerance, a local volunteer group is hosting more than a week of event-filled civic actions, beginning Sunday.
The diverse makeup of what would become the Santa Cruz County United for Safe and Inclusive Communities group initially came together around organizing the area’s first United Against Week, a national effort, in the fall of 2021.
This year’s United Against Hate Week, running through Nov. 20, features Santa Cruz County events ranging from no-experience-needed singing circles and panel film screenings to a restorative justice practices workshop and de-escalation and intervention training.
Another event, Wednesday’s online-only Calling-In Workshop, put on by Showing up for Racial Justice, offers to instruct participants on how to have difficult conversations without creating more division among those who have different views. The training comes just “just in time for the holidays,” according to organizers.
“Our organization, Santa Cruz County United for Safe and Inclusive Communities (SCCUSIC) wants to empower locals to take action in our communities and alter the course of this growing intolerance,” group organizers wrote in a press release promoting this year’s United Against Hate Week. “When we come together to work against hate, we can restore respect and civil discourse, embrace the strength of diversity and build inclusive and equitable communities for all.”
Apologies: Topical conflict absent
Resource Center for Nonviolence Executive Director Silvia Morales said one of the coming week’s events, the Nov. 19 film screening and discussion of “Join or Die” best explains the need for the community to come together. The collaborative effort will feature tabling by Santa Cruz County United of Safe and Inclusive Communities’ many member organizations. The collaborative group officially became a program under the umbrella of the Resource Center for Nonviolence in October.
As to this year’s roster, Morales said she had one regret. The dates and events, she said, were locked into place before last month’s outbreak of the latest Israel-Hamas war. Instead, an optional written statement has been provided to organizers for each event to read aloud, at their discretion, she said.
“We’re a little bit regretful that we weren’t able to create an event that really addresses that conflict because it’s also been very divisive in our community and right now is a really important time for us to come together around this idea of ‘beloved community’ and maybe to allow for people to have safe spaces to have differences,” Morales said.
In her leading role at the Resource Center for Nonviolence, Morales said she hopes to see the group, on a larger scale, “continue to work through SCCUSIC to build opportunities for our community to come together around the issue of hate and bias.” She added that national United Against Hate Week co-director Patrice O’Neill has noted Santa Cruz is a standout for its broad spectrum of community involvement, allowing the group to work not just across agencies but also across nonprofits and racial identities.
Behind the scenes
The countywide collaborative group meets monthly to reduce hate and bias, or at least strengthen the community’s response when such acts occur. Santa Cruz County United for Safe and Inclusive Communities is made up of representatives of diverse racial and ethnic groups, individuals experiencing homelessness, elected officials, law enforcement, religious leaders and many others. The group was started in honor of Taliesin Namchai Meche, who was killed in a hate crime in 2017 and was the nephew of group founder Marci DuPraw.
Santa Cruz County United for Safe and Inclusive Communities initially coalesced around DuPraw’s idea of supporting victims of hate and bias and an urge to raise awareness, said group member Diane Cowan, whose employer Santa Cruz Public Libraries serves as a sponsor for this year’s United Against Hate Week.
“People think we’re in this bubble, here in Santa Cruz, and it’s so progressive and it’s so welcoming and accepting,” Cowan said. “But we do have a lot of hate crimes and hate incidents that happen, even still.”
To learn about Santa Cruz County United for Safe and Inclusive Communities and to sign up for its mailing list, visit rcnv.org/sccusic.
• “Born to Be” film screening and panel discussion, 7 p.m., Center for Spiritual Living,1818 Felt St., Santa Cruz.
• “Raising Zoey,” film screening and panel discussion and Q&A, 6-8 p.m., Cabrillo Watsonville Center Auditorium, 318 Union St., Watsonville.
• Restorative Justice in Santa Cruz County Panel Discussion, 6:30-8 p.m., Resource Center for Nonviolence, 612 Ocean St., Santa Cruz.
• Rainbow Defense Training, 2-5 p.m., Raíces y Cariño Family Center, 1205 Freedom Blvd., Unit 3B, Watsonville.
• Bystander Intervention Training, 1-3 p.m., Branciforte Branch Library, 230 Gault St., Santa Cruz.
• Trans Day of Remembrance and Celebration, 3-6 p.m., Fruition Brewing, 918 E. Lake Ave., Watsonville.
• “Join or Die” film screening and tabling, 7-9 p.m., The 418 Project, 155 S. River St., Santa Cruz.
• Transgender Day of Remembrance Vigil, 6:30-8:30 p.m., reception 8:30-9 p.m., Resource Center for Nonviolence, 612 Ocean St., Santa Cruz.