Jan. 18—"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of convenience and comfort, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy," said Martin Luther King Jr. in his 1963 book, "Strength to Love."
Maree Gauper, a volunteer with the American Clergy Leadership Conference, will be coordinating an event called A Teaching Moment to celebrate Black History Month and continue the legacy of King by taking a stand against racism in the Yuba-Sutter area.
The interfaith, inter-denominational event will be at Pioneer Hall, located at 315 B St. in Wheatland, on Saturday, Feb. 26, from 3 to 5 p.m.
According to Gauper, members from the American Clergy Leadership Conference have been holding monthly events and meetings in Sacramento and the Yuba-Sutter area since July to build a chapter. With volunteers from Sacramento and the Yuba-Sutter area, monthly public events have been held to follow the beliefs of strengthening marriages and families, restoring communities and helping the U.S. fulfill its beacon of freedom, faith, harmony and prosperity.
However, the upcoming event will address the current challenges posed by racism in the Yuba-Sutter area and community.
"This is probably the first event to really specifically address and challenge racism. Usually the speaker that we invite is allowed to choose and to talk about whatever topic they want — as long as it's in keeping with our overall goals of unity," said Gauper. "But because of what happened in Wheatland recently, because we recently went viral with children having swastikas on their bellies, and then we heard about the swastika symbols in the Marysville tunnel, we just feel very concerned that we have some issues here in Yuba County concerning racism. We could just be seeing the tip of the iceberg. I don't know that, but I think we should be concerned. I really feel that it's the job of people of faith, especially faith leaders like clergy and leaders of other faiths, to really stand up against racism and make it very clear that this is not what Christianity is supposed to be about. Religion and racism should not have anything to do with each other. I'd like to give a public platform and a public opportunity for local clergy to stand up and really take a stand to denounce racism and then to maybe try to educate the community about what the true Christian message is supposed to be about."
For Gauper, these past unfortunate events can be a teaching moment for the community.
Gauper, who has lived in the Wheatland area for more than 30 years, said she would like to address these issues with the help of people in the community who have a high position or authority to stand up against racism. Besides local clergy and church figures, she also invites people who hold government positions to be an alliance in the community against racism.
Gauper, who also marched in the MLK Unity March on Saturday, said she invited Marcia Chambers, the coordinator of the march and a pastor at Emmanuel Family Worship Center, to participate in the event. Gauper said Chambers completely vouched her support to her about holding the event. Gauper wrote an email to local stakeholders on Saturday to invite them to participate in the February event in Wheatland.
"It was really hard to write that email because I did not know how it would be received, and it was hard to find the right words to say ... but I have to say that I was able to write that email this weekend because I love Dr. King and I'm so inspired by his ministry and his life. I think now we just need to continue building on his legacy and hold the dream in our community," said Gauper.
Gauper is looking for people who are interested in being keynote speakers or panelists. Gauper also invites the youth to participate. She would love for any youth leaders who would like to read a poem or speech to contact her. Gauper also invites performers, singers and praise dancers. If any organization is interested in donating or helping, you can contact Gauper at 530-870-0514.
In December, a photo of possibly up to eight Wheatland Union High School students were photographed with anti-semitism symbols drawn on their bodies. The photo surfaced through social media and was widely viewed, including by Shaun King, an American writer and civil rights activist, who reposted the photo in an effort to show the display of racism occurring in Northern California.
The image showed students with SS bolts or swastikas displayed on their skin. One student could be seen displaying an "OK" symbol — a hand gesture that has recently been associated with white supremacist hate groups.
Nicole Newman, superintendent at WUHS, sent a response letter to community members a week after the incident, stating: "As I stated in my December 20, 2021 statement, I can confirm that the students in the picture are WUHS students. As a result of that confirmation, my team and I are in close communication with district legal counsel, as we take disciplinary action."
On Dec. 30, Newman posted a video in response to the images and also shared how she and other colleagues have received hateful responses by people including death threats.
"We have been rocked to the core due to the disturbing images posted on social media by students who reside in our community," said Newman. "These acts do not in any way reflect the values of our community or that of our school district. Although I'm legally precluded from sharing details regarding their disciplinary actions, I can share with you that we took immediate action and will continue to do so in accordance with the facts and the legal parameters established by law."
Another hateful incident occurred during the week of Jan. 4 after video footage was posted on Facebook showing white supremacist hate symbols strewn across the walls of a mural inside a pedestrian tunnel near Marysville High School, as reported by the Appeal. Images of swastikas, the letters of KKK (Klu Klux Klan) and other derogatory terms against Black people were painted on top of the mural located inside the tunnel, located parallel to B Street near 17th Street. Due to the hateful symbols drawn across the mural, a large portion of the mural was painted over in pink.