In the aftermath of the Tree of Life synagogue shooting in October 2018, federal and law enforcement officials, community leaders, and faith leaders in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, asked CRS to provide continued services to help calm tensions and address the community’s fears. A group of federal agencies in the greater Pittsburgh area had identified a need to respond to hate crimes and learn how to prevent future hate crimes from occurring. CRS led the interagency initiative to increase the federal agencies’ capacity to prevent and respond to hate crimes in Pittsburgh by forming a working group comprised of local federal employees.
The working group expanded from six to more than 25 members, including representatives from seven federal agencies, the city of Pittsburgh, and a local university. The working group met frequently to discuss how to leverage existing community resources to prevent and respond to hate crimes and how to increase the members’ understanding of hate crimes and capacity to respond to them.
The group planned and coordinated a daylong event on October 30, 2019, at Carnegie Mellon University, designed to facilitate conversations about hate crimes and hate crimes prevention among students, faith leaders, educators, and community advocates. CRS provided facilitation training to approximately 20 volunteers, including EEOC officers, educators, nonprofit leaders, faith-based leaders, and social workers, who led “World Café” dialogues during the event.
The “Forum on Hate Crimes, Hate vs. Understanding: Start the Conversation” was also part of the university’s celebration of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer or Questioning (LGBTQ) history month. The first panel included speakers from the FBI, Department of Homeland Security, and Carnegie Mellon University Police. Participants learned how to address and prevent hate crimes and workplace violence and discrimination, as well as how to work with LGBTQ communities and emerging community groups, including the city’s growing Burmese, Chinese, and Korean communities. After the morning panel, two national LGBTQ advocates spoke about the 10th anniversary of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr., Hate Crimes Prevention Act (HCPA) of 2009. One expert included Judy Shepard, the mother of Matthew Shepard. She described her efforts to ensure passage of the HCPA, and the Matthew Shepard Foundation’s accomplishments in ensuring safety, visibility, and inclusiveness of the LGBTQ community since the enactment of the HCPA. An afternoon panel, “Preventing Hate Crimes and Law Enforcement” featured the Charlottesville, Virginia, chief of police, a Carnegie Mellon alumna. Finally, participants engaged in structured conversation on addressing issues that lead to hate crimes in afternoon “World Café” dialogues.