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Brenda Hammond, secretary for the Bonner County Human Rights Task Force and former president, interviewed by Katy Barber on 1 May 1999, in Sandpoint, Idaho.

Regarding support for the Bonner County Human Rights Task Force.

B: Did you get support from places that surprised you?

H: Um, yes we have. I don't know surprised so much but definitely gratified. Within the business community during the art for tolerant contest. There was an art contest held in the school and a lot of generous contributions from business to produce the cards based on the winning designs and that was a wonderful project. One of the Kokanee Publishing Company has put up a web site for us or connected us, you know, in with the Sandpoint web site. We've had financial contributions ... when this latest Eleventh Hour Messenger, the mass mailing of anti-Semitic Christian Identity materials in this area, when that became nationwide, I mean, we got checks from Seattle and little towns, you know, around the nation just saying that you have a problem here and we want to support you in it so that's been really great.

B: So, you've gotten support outside of the community itself.

H: Right.

B: How would you like to see Sandpoint change, say, in the next decade?

H: I certainly would love to see more diversity here. I'd like to see the image change so that people felt more comfortable coming here because as long as that image is out there that we are a racist, um, kind of a strong hold then people will stay away and other people will come that are the ones that will perpetuate that image so that's … there's a real need to try and get on the map in terms of human rights activities. We had a wonderful article in the Parade Magazine a few years ago and Sandpoint was showcased as a town that is standing up against racism but there needs to be a lot more of that to turn that around.

B: Are there areas that you think you'd like to talk about that we haven't talked about to this point? () that I haven't asked you about?

H: Let's see. I don't know. I think Sandpoint is a wonderful community and it's remarkable in its diversity even though we're not very racially or ethnically diverse. There are people that make their living in a lot of different ways. I spoke already about the arts community but the degree of involvement in the arts is exceptional in an area like this and I guess that I think that in order for human rights to really, in order for Sandpoint to become known as a town that champions human rights, which would be my dream, the understanding of human rights needs to be broadened and I see that as probably a real goal for us in the near future. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights talks about many more things that political rights or civil rights or social justice. It talks about the right to not live in fear and the right to be paid a decent wage for what you do, the right to have access to medical care for your children, the right to have adequate shelter, that these are really basic and human rights especially in a country that has as much wealth and as many resources as ours does. There's no excuse for people to go to bed hungry and I feel that if the task force can, if we can educated ourselves first and then our membership and then the community about the broader range of human rights, that the support in this area will grow because we will speak to issues that will resonate with many more people. Speaking about racial prejudice and speaking about the Holocaust resonates with a small number of people here but it's not a basic concern, it's not going to be high on the hierarchy of needs in people's perceptions and so I see that as a direction where we really need to move.

B: Do you see other people making those links between the need for tolerance, for racial tolerance and the tolerance of people with many sexual orientations being linked up with economic justice issues and those kinds of things? Is that happening?

H: Um, there are people certainly within the human rights, human rights activists around the region, and I've been fortunate to be able to meet and be involved with a number of people who fit that description, with these people there is an awareness of the links. A wonderful woman came and gave a training to our board, Loretta Ross is the director of the Institute for Human Rights Education and she's a powerful, wonderful woman whose work as an activist started out with women's rights issues and abortion and domestic violence and rape crisis and those kinds of things. She is very much aware of how these issues interlace but I think most people aren't and I think that's a real challenge for us.

B: So you're dream would be to have Sandpoint be recognized as the human rights

H: Right.

B: … human rights capital.

H: Right. I think that would be wonderful. Well, Billings got the wonderful recognition of Not in Our Town from the activism of the people there and I'd really like Sandpoint to be a "not in our town either" part two.


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