Floyd Cochran has been very busy these days and he is going to be even busier this week as he travels to Cadillac, Michigan.
Last summer, the National Socialist Movement in Cadillac decided to become good citizens and clean up a local park. The City didn’t mind, they’d take all of the help that they could get. But, when the Nazi’s showed up wearing their swastikas and stopping every now and then for photo-ops, it was pretty obvious that this was nothing more than a publicity stunt for them. It was, however, when the City Council presented a Certificate of Appreciation to the Nazi’s that the residents said “Whoa!”
Out of that situation emerged a great example of what a community can do to unite and tell hate to take a hike. When current leader of Cadillac United, Tiyi Schippers, heard a member of the NSM tell the city council that they were a legitimate political organizition she responded that they were “as much a political group as Al Qaeda with pretty much the same agenda, except with a broader target.”
From a loosely knit group to a solidified community builder, Schippers explains how it was done and where they are now:
“When the city back peddaled and refused to give a firm statement denouncing nazis we organized. We invited the ADL to speak to the community about the NSM and other hate groups. Betsy Kellman, the regional director af the ADL came up with reps from the department of human rights, and the state justice department. they talked about what was happening, and how we could counteract it. We passed out a sheet asking for volunteers to from a diversity team. This meeting took place four days after the city council meeting and about 50 people came! Twenty something signed to be on the task force.
“We scheduled our first meeting with the help of the ADL. I went to city council and invited them to the meeting, then notified the paper that I had personally invited them all. They all came. Betsy Kellman explained further what we could do and asked for the assembled group to select a leader. I drew the short straw.
Now the group meets monthly. Members include the mayor, city manager, director of public safety, superintendant of schools, MSU Extension workers, a mental health rights worker, DNR biologist, county commissioners, local ministers, a teacher, students, and concerned citizens.”
And that is how it is done, folks. Over the last year, Cadillac United has implemented a community art project entitled “From Many Places We Are One Cadillac United,” contacted Michigan State University for diversity training and applied for a grant to provide that service for the community. And the group doesn’t let any grass grow under its’ feet. Tiyi says, “We organized a large group to clean up the parks this past weekend, and all wore "No Place For Hate" buttons at the clean up and the picnic afterwards. The nazis came again, but even the city council wore the buttons. I think the message was clear. There was no confrontation, only a firm statement that we were not about hate in our town. This year saw the largest number of volunteers for the clean-up. I am not sure, but I like to think it is because folks decided to put their rakes where their hearts were in support of tolerance.”
Citizens – all against hate, working together to build a better community and send a message of zero tolerance to hate in their town. It does work, and Cadillac United is living proof of that. Tiyi Schippers is proud of what they have accomplished and what lies ahead.
“In March I was invited and participated in the Michigan Civil Rights Summit at Wayne State University,” Schippers said. “Civil rights activists from arround the state gathered to discuss segregation, hate crimes, and affirmative action. From that summit a report will be presented to the governor's office including policy suggestions. Michigan is third in the nation for hate crimes, one of the most segregated states, and not a great place for minority and women's opportunities. I was proud to be part a group striving to change that status.
“Cadillac United was also featured in the ADL Annual Report as an example of how investigation exposed latent threats.”
We wish them well in their upcoming endeavors which includes an event that will counter the NSM’s National White Pride Picnic held in July. This week, Cadillac United has invited Floyd Cochran to bring his message to the schools and to the community. On Friday, May 12, Mr. Cochran will take center stage to address the public schools of Cadillac. That evening, at 7:00 PM, Floyd will be speaking to the public at Cadillac Community Schools Auditorium – an event that promises to be well attended.
Cadillac United is but one shining example of what citizens against hate all across the country can do – and are doing. Hate doesn’t have to thrive in your neighborhood. Racism doesn’t have to be tolerated. Solutions don’t always involve confrontations. Unity, love of your fellow man, and a willingness to say no to hate can and does make a difference.
*For more information on building community coalitions and groups, please visit our “Fighting Back” section or for an audio version at AUDIO.