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From Our President...

President Brenda Hammond reviews the year and sets goals for the Bonner County Human Rights Task Force.

President’s Report -- BCHRTF Annual Meeting -- June 15, 2019

The events that marked the 2018-2019 year for the Task Force are always most meaningful with viewed in the context of the events going on in the world and especially in the community.

This year was another one in which the number of hate crimes and incidents and the prevalence of racist, homophobic, anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim rhetoric continued to increase. Generally, discourse in a national level became less civil, more divisive and moved closer to rhetoric that could be seen as promoting and even advocating violence.

Specifically, in Bonner County, we faced the challenge of responding to racist and anti-semitic flyers distributed randomly in SPT neighborhoods. The same kinds of messages appeared in robo-calls and CD’s placed on the windshields of cars at the high school. 2017 -- September -- We held a press conference and community leaders stood with us in denouncing the ideology behind the messages --- the flyers announced that there would be an office for a white nationalist organization opening soon in SPT.

In Jan, 2018 -- the man behind this was identified as Scott Rhodes -- who also claimed responsibility for robo-calls in other parts of the country targeting political candidates, including Diane Feinstein in CA. The culmination of his activities in Sandpoint was a campaign directed against Ben Olson, the publisher of the Reader. This resulted in thousands of dollars of contributions to the Reader and the community rallying in support of its journalists who are not intimidated by threats and continue to pursue and publish the truth. -- A year later, Scott left Sandpoint and was reported to be living in Libby, MT. Just like Vincent Bertollini, one of his predecessors in trying to establish a beach-head for racist, anti-semitic and homophobic beliefs in SPT, this didn’t turn out as he had planned.

Once again, the people of Sandpoint and Bonner County took a stand by consistently denouncing the ideology he was advocating; the newspapers published the truth about what he was doing; the police worked together with local citizens and the TF -- and Scott Rhodes was added to the list of those who tried and failed to create the “all-white, all racist” Idaho he bragged about representing.

Last year, on Human Rights Day in December, the HRTF honored our local journalists and sponsored a panel discussion about the freedom on the press and freedom of belief that is upheld by the Universal Dec. of HR-- as well as the US Constitution.

All during the time this story was playing out, the TF continued to quietly go about its work of promoting tolerance, supporting human dignity, and educating adults and youth across Bonner County.

Once again, last September, we joined voices raised all around the world, and hosted “100,000 Poets for Change” -- The annual Art for Human Rights exhibit of student art -- We offered scholarships to BC students and awarded grants to organizations offering programs and activities supporting human rights.

Last fall-- at election time -- we came out publicly in favor of Medicaid Expansion in Idaho-- and Proposition Two, which passed overwhelmingly and proved the people of Idaho are passionate about health care for everyone. We recognized health care as a fundamental human right.

During events this year to honor Earth Day, the HRTF joined with other organizations advocating for protection of the environment -- We participated in the Earth Day celebration -- and proclaimed that -- yes -- clean water, clean air and a clean environment is also a human right we support on behalf of our children, and grand-children and all those who will come after us.

There is much more work to do -- and we are asking for your help. As is customary whenever we have a visible threat to our vision of a community that is safe and welcoming-- there is a response, and in the past year and a half our membership has increased. However-- we know that there are many more people in our community who support our mission and goals who are not yet members formally-- although they are members at heart.

It’s important that we be able to communicate with all of you-- to let you know what is going on-- and to let you know when it is necessary to band together and take a stand on issues related to human rights.

So -- growing our membership is one of our top priorities for this next year.

We also want to grow our Board -- many hands make light work -- and we need more hands for all of the work that needs to be done.

We also are needing to do some fundraising -- Dorothy Adler left us money-- but it is placed in trust…. And we need more funds available for work in the community.

Some of us were able, this May, to attend a 3 day conference at Gonzaga University-- focusing on building communities on love and not hate-- This came about through our partnership with the KCTFHR-- another thing that always happens when there is a visible threat to human rights-- we band together with other human rights organizations.

We came back with some exciting ideas we’d like to share with you about things we can do here in our area. We hope you can add to those ideas, and help us come up with some meaningful actions. Because this is the important part of who we are -- and organization that continues to steadfastly ACT to promote the ideals we believe in -- and not simply be one the RE-ACTS when those ideals are attacked.

So it makes sense, at this time, to have our Treasurer’s Report and present our budget for the next year -- so we know what we need to have in order to fuel the projects and ideas we want to carry out.

We also want to introduce you to our updated website -- announce the grants we will be awarding this year -- and the scholarships we have given out. WE need to formally vote in the Board for another year.

Then we want to move into the realm of action-- by presenting some ideas we have for the future-- listen to your feedback as well as other ideas you might have. Then-- at the end we will have the drawing for the two Festival tickets to a concert of your choice!!

So --let’s get moving!!!


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