Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Not in Our Town: A Light in the Darkness


I attended the film/discussion of “Not in Our Town: A Light in the Darkness” at the Troy Interfaith Group’s January 9th meeting. The Troy group exists in the somewhat upscale community about 3 or 4 suburbs North of Detroit. I worked there for almost 5 years in the early ‘80s – Reagan ruled! It was a very white, snobby/entitled work experience for me. More recently Troy had a mayor in the last 10 or so years who was incredibly vitriolic about gay rights and mass transit bringing more Blacks and minorities to the city. 

But that has changed in more recent years. It is great to see that Troy has become much more tolerant and diverse. The Troy Interfaith group represents a wide range of faiths, both mono and multi theistic, and the emphasis seems to be more empowering and flexible for laypersons, clearly represented at the formal board meetings. There is also a greater and diverse ‘outer court’ if you will, around the Troy group’s meetings and events. Troy Interfaith has monthly open meetings and usually an event afterwards that can be considered an in-service,  or calls to volunteering opportunities and more. Troy Interfaith Group has a visible and engaged amount of Hindu and other Near Eastern folk. 

Detroit has always been known as a highly diverse metro region. The city of Troy seems to have a more professional and upscale population that includes doctors and other medical professions of Hindu communities that live here. So this evening’s film and discussion was pertinent especially in the days and weeks since the national election.

This PBS documentary, the fifth of its kind is in 60 and 27-minute versions. Not In Our Town, an actual movement to address hate and bullying and to build more inclusive communities has been organizing since 1995 and began through churches and other faith-based organizations. Schools and other organizations around the states have joined the project and the movement has brought together many stakeholders in issues such as local media, agencies, elected officials, labor representatives and more.

“Light in the Darkness” concerns the spiritual and functional evolution of a community driven to great crisis by the attack and murder of a local Ecuadoran immigrant Marcelo Lucero in a small town in Suffolk County, NY. Though the attack took place in 2008 and this film was finally produced in 2012 there is still quite a lot for many people to think about in the recent months since the election. This showing was early January but already people of many races and faiths, in a community known for its upscale aspects, have seen the need to educate themselves and organize against the hate portrayed here.

What I am seeing is that in a community as diverse as the Metro Detroit community has always been that Interfaith and its associates are now considering organization and possible activism, in much the same manner of decades past, the ‘60s with the Civil Rights and Anti-Vietnam movements, back to the struggle for Workers and Women’s rights in the ‘20s.  In the Troy group, during the discussion after the film, many people waited patiently to get their question or comment aired. Everyone was moved and strongly by the film as it chronicled several years of the aftermath of Lucero’s murder. All for the good, as the film series, Not in Our Town demonstrates, but not without a great deal of soul-searching and the need and necessity of both forgiveness and redemption.

There was not enough time for everyone to speak for clearly the crowd was more than expected with at least a dozen people standing in the back. Troy Interfaith Group moves their monthly meetings around their sizable city; this one was in a meeting room at the Troy Police Station, who has significant outreach and representatives with the group. There were some snacks and light refreshment before, during and after the program. As I attended the meeting before the film, I was warmly welcomed by a group of about 10 folks who represented the shades of Christian, Muslim and Judaism as well as a couple of the Hindu faith.  Later on during the film I noted quite a spread of age, gender and nationality amongst the attendees.  The Detroit area also has a large amount of Latino communities and some do live in Troy, which has become quite diverse from the time I knew it 30 and more years ago.  For many reasons, the Troy group seems poised to make a lot of noise about this issue and perhaps many others that are now becoming more challenging since the results of November’s election. While Michigan went to Mr. Trump, that divide is clearly reflected in the Southeast part of the state the most. Parts of the Detroit area may have moved towards the Republican ideology (with the help of the Nation’s most gerrymandered districts), but there is a great resistance forming in both groups like Detroit Jews for Justice, who’ve I reported on before, and the Troy Interfaith Group.

In Her Service,  Oberon ~ National Interfaith Representative