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Crusading against hate

Pam Holmes Boyd
Special to the DailyBrittany Peterson and Maggie Sheahan made their way through many logistical challenges to present "Journey to a Hate Free Millennium" to the community.
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“Even in our little community, we can help keep hate from happening,” said Sheahan.

“One of our views about hate is its becoming accepted,” said Peterson. “It’s not just in big cities and it’s not just the big crimes. It’s bullying and teasing. When you have that, hate is there first.”

Their mission to educate their fellow students and the community at large about the devastating consequences of hate will culminate tonight during a special presentation of “Journey to a Hate Free Millennium.”

The stirring film is the centerpiece a 90-minute program that asks “why people hate?” But begs its audience, too, to find answers and create their own visions of a hate-free world.

“Journey to a Hate Free Millennium” features shocking stories culled from today’s headlines:

– The vicious murder of Matthew Shepherd, a gay college student in Wyoming.

– The brutal dragging death of James Byrd Jr., an African American man in Texas.

– The horrendous shootings at Columbine High School.

Members of victims’ families share their thoughts, together with students, teachers and celebrities – people moved by these events.

The film will serve as the launching pad for a discussion about hate and the role it plays in our society. Leading this talk will be David Lewis, one of the first law enforcement officers on the scene the day of the Columbine shootings. Additionally, Peterson and Sheahan will share their own experiences in looking at how hate affects community.

Participants in Voices Carry, a local empowerment program for young women who are high school sophomores and juniors, Peterson and Sheahan are presenting “Journey to a Hate Free Millennium” as their program project.

“Our project was to promote an anti-hate message, so we were trying to think of ways to get the community thinking about it,” said Sheahan.

The girls originally planned to produce their own documentary when one of the Voices Carry adult mentors, Susie Davis, forwarded the information about the film. After viewing the film for themselves, the girls were convinced that “Journey to a Hate Free Millennium” contained the message they wanted to share.

Having committed to the projects, the Battle Mountain High School sophomores faced a heady challenge. The cost to show the film is $4,500. Additionally, they needed a place to present the program and they needed to supply various necessary equipment. The girls’ Voices Carry mentor, Caroline Bradford, agreed to advise them on how to proceed and offered appropriate assistance, but she made it clear that they would have to do the legwork and meet their challenges themselves.

The film’s producers agreed to cut their fee to $3,000, and the girls received grants from the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office, the El Pomar Foundation at Eagle Valley High School and the Youth Foundation. The Vail Cascade Resort and Spa agreed to a reduced rate to rent the Centennial Ballroom.

When it was all said and done, the girls had both a program and a place to present it.

The community is welcome to attend the program at the Vail Cascade Resort and Spa, beginning at 7 p.m. The presentation is appropriate for students in seventh grade and higher but may be too intense for younger children. While Sheahan and Peterson wanted to share their anti-hate message with the community at large, they also wanted to make sure their fellow students were included. As a result, the “Journey to a Hate Free Millennium” program also will be presented from 9:30 to 11 a.m. at Battle Mountain High School today with eighth graders from Minturn Middle School, Berry Creek Middle School and the Eagle County Charter Academy.

“The presentation is supposed to be really impactful,” said Sheahan. “Hopefully, it will open people’s eyes that hate exists everywhere.”

“It’s really audience interactive,” added Peterson. “We just want a lot of people to come because we think people in our community should see this program. We think people will be moved by it.”


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