Massasoit Street - Letter to the Editor

Letter to the Daily Hampshire Gazette
(as published May 6, 2006)

Stand Against Hate
By Heather Johnson AND Valerie Nelson

If you've driven down Massasoit Street recently, you've probably seen a number of rainbow flags flying from homes along the street. More are going to be appearing every day.

The flags are not being displayed in festive anticipation of the Pride March, although in many ways they are certainly appropriate for that occasion. The flags are actually more reminiscent of the legend about Denmark during World War II, when Danes were said to have voluntarily donned armbands with yellow stars in solidarity with Jewish citizens who were forced to wear the stars by the Nazi occupiers.

A couple of weeks ago there were two hate incidents that happened on Massasoit: a rainbow flag with the word peace in Italian was stolen from a home and two cars belonging to Massasoit Street families were scratched by keys with anti-gay epithets. Both incidents are categorized as hate crimes by the police, who are still investigating.

In response, Massasoit Street residents got together and decided to show support for their neighbors by flying rainbow flags in solidarity with them. With their action, they are bearing witness and signaling that acts of hate will not go unopposed in their neighborhood. We are inspired by their thoughtful show of support.

Even though Northampton is considered welcoming to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people, intolerance still has a presence here. Just as the 25th anniversary of the Pride March reminds us how our community's acceptance of LGBT people has evolved over the past few decades, we should pause and reflect on the persistence of prejudice in our community.

So let us be inspired by the residents flying flags on Massasoit Street and dedicate ourselves to making our city a community where there is no tolerance for acts of hate. Please join us in recognizing the 25th anniversary of the Pride March which starts at noon today at Lampron Park and by visiting the related ''Marching Towards Freedom'' exhibit at Historic Northampton on display through May 14.

Heather Johnson is chairwoman and Valerie Nelson vice-chairwoman of the Northampton Human Rights Commission. This was written on behalf of the commission.