A new activist group called Of the People held trivia night for its soft opening on April 20. The group is currently composed of eight criminal justice majors dedicated to combating anti-government, pro-militia and white supremacist ideologies.
“We want to defy the hate ideology by promoting nothing but positivity,” said associate professor of criminal justice and criminology Jennifer Bradford. She serves as the group’s adviser. “So for every one act of violence or hate, we have 1,000 acts of kindness.”
The group was founded in December 2016, but launched online two or three weeks before the event. Currently, the group is focusing on spreading their message on social media and building their presence online. However, they have a continuous goal of putting together rapid response teams to show up when an act of hate occurs, like those at Jewish cemeteries in New York last month.
“It’s immediate response with something positive, it’s not taking a sign and saying ‘darn you white supremacist.’ It’s saying ‘what can we do to help fix this so you don’t have to do this all by yourself,’” Bradford said.
Dacia Messing—a criminal justice major and member of the group—said that the message against hate speech and white supremacy is important, especially after the last election. She said the election worsened growing social divides.
“We’re trying to breed and cultivate a more positive society, instead of everyone trying to be negative towards each other all the time,” Messing said. Another member and criminal justice
major, James Adam, said he joined the group because he, “wanted to make a difference and help people that are victims of extremism.” Adam said the group stresses the need to put the unity back in community and also to work in partnership with others to create good.
“Today it seems like there’s a lot of me vs. you going on and that’s not how it should be,” Adam said.
The group hopes to expand their message at their launch party on May 4. Their goal is to continue with the project beyond this semester and register as an official student group on campus. This would open the group up to students of all majors.
“The more we can spread the message, the more we can get people to understand that it doesn’t have to be this way. We don’t have to have this inherent bias or prejudices,” Bradford said. “We can try to improve the system from within.”