Hate Has No Home in Gloucester County
By Freeholder Jim Jefferson

Last week, I heard about another horrifying incident in our county that made headlines. Sadly, a swastika was painted on a home in Williamstown. Last fall we read about several race-based incidents in several of our local schools. It seems that when I turn on the news I hear about some divisive incident that sets our nation back in time, back to an era where races and cultures were pitted against each other.

How do you tackle intolerance in this day and age? Is it possible to expose our young people to the ideals of acceptance within our schools so that they can carry those values through their lives? The only thing I know for certain is that we have to try.

It is our job as elected officials, parents and human beings to speak up and speak out and defy racism. It is our job to make sure that our neighbors know they live in a safe and accepting community regardless of the color of their skin, ethnicity, the God to whom they pray or who they love.

As a Freeholder, a member of Hope Christian Fellowship Church in Woodbury and as a father, I believe that we can create an atmosphere of peace to show that we can help promote tolerance. That is why in the coming months Gloucester County we will be bringing The Tolerance Project to many of our schools and community events in an effort to promote cultural awareness, diversity and strengthen communication and conflict resolution.

The Tolerance program uses a variety of learning modalities including interactive technology, video presentations, special speakers and small group discussions. The program is inclusive and presents an educational experience that engages participants on many levels.

Some issues the program focuses on are discrimination, prejudice, racism, diversity and stereotyping. The goals of the program are to strengthen ethical and bias-free decision making, enhance competency inter-cultural communication and conflict resolution, and develop progressive leadership practices. A committee of community leaders has been comprised to steer this effort, and I know that they will put their full attention and energy into creating an atmosphere within our schools and our communities that is of respect and acceptance.

It has always been my personal goal to bring people together in the spirit of unity. This past November, I was part of a Unity Prayer Service that more than 300 faith leaders attended. I will continue to do all I can to promote unity because it is time to come together to show that hate has no room in Gloucester County. It is my sincere hope that The Tolerance program will serve as another step in the effort to lead us there.

Our children are watching us closely and the next step is up to us. Silence is equal to complicity and that is not acceptable. We must stand together in unity to speak out against racism and show that respect, equality, love, compassion, tolerance and kindness are the path that we lead our children down.

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