Monday, November 19, 2018

onePULSE Foundation Town Hall Forum – Changing Hate…A Conversation

The onePULSE Foundation Town Hall Forum - Changing Hate...A Conversation, was held at the Orlando Rep (1001 East Princeton Street Orlando FL). The set was for a production of Elf.

Hate crimes in our nation’s 10 largest cities increased by 12% in 2017 the highest level in more than a decade. This Town Hall Forum brought national key influencers to Orlando to discuss how they overcame a hateful belief system, are addressing hateful messages and reaching others to dispel the belief that hate is learned.

I sketched the Morgan Stanley banker who introduced the evening at the podium. Barbara Poma the Pulse night club owner and founder of the one Pulse Foundation also introduced the evening. The panel was moderated by Sally Kohn, author of The Opposite Of Hate: A Field Guide to Repairing Our Humanity she is also a  CNN political commentator and columnist.

Panelist Daryl Davis, author of Klan-destine Relationships: A Black Man’s Odyssey in the Ku Klux Klan spoke about his childhood growing up in Europe where white and black are not an issue. His family returned to America and he joined the boy scouts. His troupe was invited to walk in a parade. He gladly put on his uniform and joined his fellow scouts on the parade. However during the course of the parade several small boys and adults began to throw small rocks. He thought, "They must not like boy scouts." It wasn't until troupe leaders shielded him that he realized that the rocks were only meant for him. At home his parents had to patch his wounds and he asked why people had a problem with him. He had never heard of racism. He couldn't understand how someone could hate him if they didn't know him.

Thus began a life long mission to speak with members of the KKK who hated him. Many of these conversations resulted in friendships. Daryl collects KKK memorabilia from people he has talked to who gave up their life of hate. Over 200 Klansman have left the KKK after these conversations with Daryl.

Dylan Marron is a blogger and host of Conversations with People Who Hate Me. He experienced a rush of euphoria as his online persona took flight. However this success also resulted in hate directed towards him online. He become obsessed with finding out who these people were who hated him. He would look up their contact information on social media and call them. These recorded conversations are what he shares online now. He and Daryl bot agreed that giving someone the chance to express their opinions often resulted in them being willing to hear their opinion. Conversation is about acknowledging someones self worth. In the course of each conversation there is usually a moment when someone has a dog rush in the room, of they step on a Lego. The moment they laugh together gives him a glowing moment of hope. All the differences of opinion melt away.

Sally asked everyone in the audience to think of three issues that they hold dear, be it abortion, gun control etc. Then she asked us all how many of us had researched that issue with government reports, research, or read multiple books on the issue. No one raised a hand. This is how people who have an opposite opinion also came to their conclusions. They only read enough to justify how they feel.

At the end of the evening, Theresa Jacobs who is stepping down as Orange County's Mayor took to the podium. With one day left in office she seemed to want to clear the slate. She spoke of her childhood fear of black people but in school she befriended a black girl who had given her a pencil. Because she sat at the lunch table with this girl, she was ostracized by white students. She mentioned a gay boy who she dated and then a black boy she performed a trapeze act with. She expressed her support for transvestites but I think she meant to say transgender. This was the wrong forum to make that slip.  It was a strange litany and I stopped believing her sincerity.

In office she is best known as the woman who did all she could to block gay marriage, saying. "marriage should be reserved for a man and a woman." She confided that this is the issue that conflicted with her Catholic beliefs. At a wedding for her son, she realized how her family was so important to her and how the vows in any wedding mean so much for her families happiness. She broke down and cried and realized she had been wrong. Everyone should have the right to get married and share that happiness.

Though every panelist agreed that we are living in dark times and that hate speech is rampant, they choose to battle the ignorance and hate one conversation at a time. If you disagree with someone try and avoid expressing your disdain, instead stop and listen and share your thoughts. This Thanksgiving if you have a relative who supports today's atmosphere of intolerance and hate, try talking to them and plant a seed of light in the darkness. Change doesn't happen quickly. But some people can change.

Prints are available for each sketch for $250 and many originals can be purchased for $400. White museum grade shadow box frames are $100 more. You can e-mail Thor at

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