Waking in Oak Creek is a short documentary produced as part of the Not In Our Town (NIOT) campaign. In this post, Director of Community Engagement Michelle Gahee Kloss discusses the film and NIOT’s advocacy agenda. If you would like to learn more about how to screen the film in your community, please visit the NIOT website.

An excerpt from Waking in Oak Creek.

What human rights issue does your video address? How does this issue fit into your larger campaign?

The Not In Our Town movement seeks to stop hate, address intolerance and bullying, and make communities safe for all. Our new film, Waking in Oak Creek, profiles the powerful community and law enforcement response to the 2012 hate crime shooting at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin. Central to our film is the right of all people to be protected from hate crimes and persecution. The FBI defines hate crimes as “criminal offenses motivated, in whole or in part, by the offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, or gender identity.” In the case of the shooting at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin, a white supremacist specifically targeted the Sikh community in Oak Creek.

Not In Our Town Logo

Waking in Oak Creek also addresses the importance of accurately reporting all hate crimes, so everyone counts. A 2013 study released by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics reported that more than 250,000 Americans over the age of 12 are victimized by hate crimes each year, but nearly two out of three of these hate crimes currently go unreported to police. 24 percent of victims who responded to the survey said they did not report the crime because they did not believe the police could or would help; 15 percent citeda fear of reprisal or getting the offender in trouble.These shocking statistics illustrate the “hate crime reporting gap,” an urgent challenge facing law enforcement agencies and communities nationwide.

Additionally, the film highlights the need for communities and law enforcement to actively respond to acts of hate and intolerance. Hate crimes send a message that “people like you are not welcome here,” spreading fear throughout the targeted community. To maintain a sense of trust and safety within a community, it is essential for victims to be supported, and for these crimes to be actively investigated and prosecuted. The film also emphasizes how vital it is to build bridges between different groups in one’s  community—and to stand up for those who are targeted.

What is the goal of the video?

The goal of Waking in Oak Creek and our engagement campaign is to raise awareness about the impact of hate and intolerance, and to increase civic engagement and cooperation between law enforcement and community partners in order to prevent hate crimes and create safe, inclusive environments. The film is designed to model positive action and inspire other communities.

Image courtesy of Not In Our Town
The Sikh Temple of Wisconsin in Oak Creek, WI. Image courtesy of Not In Our Town.

Who is the primary audience?

As with all Not In Our Town films and online resources, Waking in Oak Creek is designed to be a resource for all the key stakeholder groups in a community that need to be working together to prevent and respond to hate, including: human rights and human relations organizations; civic leaders; law enforcement agencies; faith/interfaith groups; schools; and the media.

What is the message of your video campaign?

Our message is that it is crucial for members of a community—including law enforcement and everyday people—to respond to acts of hate and intolerance, and work together to prevent these acts from occurring. Also, it is so important for people to get to know their communities and all of the varied groups that reside there. In Oak Creek, most residents didn’t really know anything about the Sikh faith or their Sikh neighbors before the shooting—even though they drove by the Sikh Temple on a regular basis. For everyday people, and especially for law enforcement agencies, don’t wait for a tragedy to happen before you reach out to the different groups in your town.

Image courtesy of Not In Our Town
Amardeep Singh Kaleka, Harpreet Saini, Kamal Saini and Amardeep Kaleka in Washington, D.C. at the Senate hearing on hate crimes. (Photo credit: Russell Brammer)

How are you distributing the video?

Through a collaboration with the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (the COPS Office), Waking in Oak Creek is being distributed for free via our website, NIOT.org, and the COPS Office resource hub. DVDs are available, together with a viewing guide, educator lesson plan, and other supplemental resources, for use in community screenings and discussions, training workshops, and other activities. Working with organizations like American Library Association, The Sikh Coalition, International Association of Chiefs of Police, Interfaith Alliance, and many others, we are reaching out to key stakeholder groups. So far, we have received over 500 screening requests! We are also working with local PBS stations, including Milwaukee Public Television, to schedule broadcasts of the film.

What outcomes or impact do you hope to see as a result of the video?

We look forward to hearing back from local communities about the dialogues and action plans that come out of their screening events and trainings. Ideally, a screening of the film becomes part of a city-wide, sustained effort to connect different parts of the community and work together to prevent and respond to hate. In our own work, we hope to expand and deepen our engagement with law enforcement and community partners across the country, and to facilitate more collaborations.

Check out other videos from the Not In Our Town campaign here.

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