The reaffirmation of Not In Our Town came complete with speeches, cheerleaders and a marching band.
Bowling Green State University and city of Bowling Green leaders helped reaffirm their joint commitment to inclusion,diversity and making both campus and the community a safe and welcoming place.
The group gathered Thursday in the Bowen-Thompson Student Union. Frieda Falcon was there, as were members of the BGSU cheerleading squad and the marching band.
Bowling Green Mayor Richard Edwards takes comfort in knowing the movement has put in place some principles and protocols that “heaven forbid something should go haywire in our community … that we have a network in place that can go to work immediately.”
NIOT guides, supports and inspires communities to work together to stop hate. It focuses on preventing bullying, protecting diversity and embracing inclusion.
It started in the fall of 2012 after several incidents raised concerns: the arson at the mosque in Perrysburg Township, followed by racist graffiti at the home of a BGSU men’s basketball coach and racist tweets when a group of African-American students went to a local bar.
Thursday was deemed a day “to celebrate and remember what we’ve accomplished,” said BGSU President Mary Ellen Mazey, citing the incidents that led to the creation of NIOT.
“We’ve been able to overcome that adversity, and from something bad came something good, and it is Not In Our Town,” she said.
Graduate student Keenan Colquitt said he appreciates the accessibility NIOT has provided for students to talk to the mayor, university administration and the city police department, plus the additional programming efforts.
“I believe in it,” Edwards said, adding that the movement creates great value for the city.
Bowling Green was named a Gold Star City in 2014, which recognized it as a NIOT community that is standing up a fighting hate, Edwards said
“We take this very seriously,” Edwards said. “We can’t rest on our laurels.”
NIOT also earned a quality of life ImpACT Award from the International Town and Gown Association earlier this year for its level of collaboration and its impact.
Leslie Galan, co-chair of NIOT, said NIOT also answers questions, such as why is a man allowed to spew hateful words on a street corner downtown.
“We help explain to them it is his First Amendment right,” she said, and they may understand it better coming from NIOT than the city police department.
NIOT “has brought the university and community together to talk about the respect we should have for each other and the importance of inclusion on campus and in our community,” said Mazey.
The focus has always been on both campus and the city, said NIOT Co-Chair Rev. Gary Saunders.
The group came together to grieve after the shootings in Charleston and Orlando, “and we have confronted local discrimination in the areas of race, religion and sexual orientation,” he continued.
The group also has introduced a peace lunch and an anti-Islamophobia event to bring religious tolerance to the forefront.
Not In Our Town Bowling Green “has emerged as a known, effective advocacy group that is known well beyond the Bowling Green area,” Saunders said.
Amanda Dortch, president of the Undergraduate Student Government, pointed out that the experiences “that we have here will shape us into the people we will be tomorrow.”
With the world changing constantly, “it is our responsibility to make a difference and stand up against hate, to stop injustices and to push ourselves forward in the right direction.”
“That is what we learned from Not In Our Town,” she said.