Avery Boulware, Campus Carrier News Editor
|CARRIER FILE PHOTO|
Last spring, Berry students and members of the Rome community participated in a silent protest in response to a neo-Nazi rally.
After forming in response to the neo-Nazi rally in Rome last spring, Turn Your Back On Hate (TYBOH), an equality advocacy group made up of Berry students and faculty and community members, continues work in the Rome community.
Members of TYBOH continued to meet after the rally was over. Group members began to look for ways to make the movement a more permanent presence on campus and around Rome.
“What it has kind of transitioned into is organizing community events that promote diversity and stand up against violence and hatred,” senior Sam Fuller said. According to Fuller, members of the group want TYBOH to eventually have non-profit status.
TYBOH held a rally after the shootings in Orlando this past summer, demonstrating solidarity for the victims and their families. The group also organized a drum circle to raise money for the Dakota Access Pipeline last semester.
“The group has helped to spark a lot of discussion,” government and international studies professor John Hickman said. “Like a lot of people, we have been stunned by the election of Donald Trump. He seems to have unleashed a lot of hate. So we are watching that closely.”
In addition to events on campus, TYBOH aims to bridge the gap between Berry and Rome.
“We’ve been meeting about how we can tie Berry and the Rome community closer together,” Hickman said. “We’d like the Rome City Council to make Rome a city of compassion, that everyone belongs.”
TYBOH is supporting the Makervillage in Rome, which is a startup and co-work community that offers classes and other opportunities for Romans interested in business and art.
“We are all about helping Rome develop as a unique community,” Hickman said. “There is an interest in developing the arts and giving Rome a unique identity.”
Hickman was a part of TYBOH even before it was given a name.
“We were puzzled by why (neo-Nazi groups) were coming, and we wanted to find out what would be an appropriate response,” Hickman said.
The group planned a silent protest: members would gather as a group, watch the neo-Nazi group’s demonstration for a moment, then turn their backs and walk away from the area.
Fuller explained the overall message of the silent protest: “We as a community do not condone what (they) are saying and what (they) stand for, but we didn’t want to have an open confrontation with them.”
Jessie Reed (’07), a Berry alum and Rome local, partnered with Hickman after hearing about the rally.
“The idea of showing up, standing silently, in solidarity, and turning our backs to them while presenting hearts with Rome in the middle just seemed like the perfect balance to such vile behavior,” Reed said. “It allowed us to send the clear, peaceful message that Rome was in no way supportive of or represented by the KKK, that love is greater than hate, and you can send a message loud and clear silently and peacefully, with love at the epicenter.”
Reed’s involvement with the Berry TYBOH group helped to bridge the gap between Berry and Rome, a relationship that the group hopes to continue to foster.