My College, My Church and My Cafes
My Greater Liberty Inner Sanctum
Home of HateBusters
When a Klansman won election to the Louisiana Legislature in 1988, my students at William Jewell College knew they had to help the state redeem itself. We started HateBusters. We got the governor to invite us. We got a black church and a white church to invite us. We got an airline to give us free tickets. We went. Stayed four days. Spoke at LSU. Were on radio to talk about race relations. We held a Human Family Reunion for the folks in Baton Rogue.
When someone burned a cross in a black man’s yard in Liberty in 1991, we held a march from our campus to the town square, wearing our HateBusters shirts and chanting, “Up with people, down with hate.” In a half-page editorial the next morning, the Kansas City Star lauded the march: “In Liberty on Thursday, the anti-hate message was loud and clear. It took only one cross on a black man’s lawn . . . for the offense to get some folks in Liberty stirred up. More than 100 persons, many of them white students and faculty from William Jewell College, marched along Franklin Street in a display of outrage at persons who commit hate crimes. The march was the idea of Ryan Bunch, a student from Raytown. . . “
Word got out, and HateBusters began to be invited everywhere and all the time. To St. Leo College in Florida, the University of Mississippi, a Dallas, Texas elementary school, San Antonio to hold a Human Family Reunion, Phoenix to celebrate Martin Luther King’s birthday, Burlington, Iowa to speak to the City Human Rights Commission, Hemet, California to visit an Indian reservation and hold a Human Family Reunion, Columbia and Jefferson City to hold Human Family Reunions, the White House to attend the Hate Crimes Conference. Invitations came from governors, mayors, schools, colleges, universities, pastors, rabbis, imams, students, prisons, police departments and ordinary citizens.
William Jewell College is the birthplace of the Human Family Reunion, first held in 1976. Begun as the culminating event of the Race Relations class, bringing together the many folks students had gotten to know during the semester, this is an evening where everyone brings a dish of their favorite food, who’s right is the wrong question, our sole (soul) agenda is to get to know one another, nobody speaks for more than three minutes and everybody who wishes gets a turn at the mike.
Every April on campus and any other place at anytime someone asks. That’s when the Human Family Reunion happens. At least one a year. Sometimes dozens. Tuesday, April 24, 2007 at 6:30 in the evening at William Jewell is the next one. If you’re reading these words, you’re invited.
Becoming World Class Persons, able to go anyplace at any time and talk to anyone about anything and feel safe. That’s what HateBusters and the Human Family Reunion have as their goal. Now and then a rude and insulting reminder comes along to remind us all how vital this mission is. When the reminder comes from afar, requiring that we travel great distances to confront it, we board a plane or get in our cars and go to do our chosen duty. Then come home to report. But when the reminder springs up in our midst, an unspeakable sadness comes over us. There is no where to go now. As Pogo would say, “We have met the enemy, and he is us.”
When a white freshman student on our campus donned blackface and went from room to room in his dorm shouting the N word, he hurt us all in ways that we will be a long time understanding and even longer making right. But the only effective time to begin is immediately.
HateBusters does not know the name of the student who did this. But we love him. No matter his motivation, he has opened wide the door through which leaning may enter and find him. Those hurt by his actions we also love. They also are now open to learning in ways heretofore closed. Conditions have conspired to hand us a lemon. We now have opportunity to make lemonade.