You’ve likely seen the signs—green, with white lettering—small but distinct placards dotting roadsides and punctuating school and church properties throughout Shasta County.
“No Room for Racism,” they proclaim.
The signs—at one point 75 of them—have been a subtle but consistent presence in this Northern California region since 1995.
The same could be said for the all-volunteer organization that posted them. Shasta County Citizens Advocating Respect (SCCAR) is celebrating a quarter-century of grass-roots activism in combatting prejudice and social injustice.
“Both the signs and the organization itself have provided a presence in the community,” said SCCAR spokesman Tom O’Mara. “If something goes on, somebody’s going to take notice and say something, and that is SCCAR.”
SCCAR, which recently changed its name from Shasta County Citizens Against Racism (same acronym), invites the public to a celebration of its 25 years from 5 to 7 p.m. Monday (May 20) in the community room at the Shasta County Library. Socializing begins at 5, with a program at 6 to honor founders and charter members. The event is free, and light refreshments will be served.
SCCAR started in 1988, after a racially motivated shooting in Caldwell Park prompted Redding businessman David Ledger, civil rights activist Isaac Lowe, social worker Fran Brady, and attorney Bob Bryzmann to take action.
The recent name change matches the group’s longtime stance against all causes of oppression and violence, O’Mara said.
“We’re wanting to reach out to people who are gay or lesbian, disabled or victimized because of religion—all the categories that are covered by state hate crime laws,” he said. “Those are things we as an organization are concerned with and always were.”
Since its inception, SCCAR has collaborated with numerous organizations committed to tolerance, diversity and social justice. Some of its projects, detailed in a press release, include the following:
• Annual Civil Rights and Social Justice Awards Dinner honoring citizens and law enforcement officers who have promoted civil rights in the community since 1990
• Human Rights Council in collaboration with government, social and religious groups in response to the 1999 murders of two gay community members
• Speaker’s Bureau as a resource for schools and organizations
• Participation in the international “Not In Our Town” movement
• Building Bridges conferences and conversations in 2003, 2004, 2006 and 2007
• Town hall meetings and community forums in response to racial incidents
• Teen-to-teen “Let’s Talk About It” events by SCCAR youth group
• Isaac Lowe Scholarship for Shasta College students
• Hate Crime Forum co-sponsored by SCCAR and the Youth Violence Prevention Council in 2012
• SCCAR civil rights advocate on Redding Police Department task force to support victims of hate crimes
• Review of referrals by people experiencing discrimination and encouragement of ongoing dialogue between parties in disputed situations
• Support of Mien community programs, African-American graduations, Celebration of Life and Diversity, Northern Hispanic Latino Coalition events, and the Multicultural Celebration at Central Valley High School
• Support of American Indian groups to stop artifact collectors from desecrating burial sites, to promote recognition of local tribes and correspondence with government agencies and elected representatives to support the Winnemem Wintu tribe’s coming of age ceremony
• Support of individuals, businesses, Christian, Jewish and Sikh communities when their properties were vandalized
Though it is difficult to quantify the impact of a group like SCCAR, O’Mara notes that Shasta County “really bucks some state and national trends as far as hate crimes reported to law enforcement.” In the mid ‘90s to early 2000s, state and national numbers doubled, while Shasta County’s decreased or stayed flat, he said.
It’s the intangible things that are likely to make the deepest difference. O’Mara recalled a presentation he and civil rights activist Georgia Fowler made at Black Butte School in Shingletown. “I went around with the mic and took questions, and we had a great conversation,” he said. “It’s a small thing, but that’s the kind of thing I think of when I look back over the years – really connecting with others and sharing a message of peace and respecting all people.”
SCCAR, which holds monthly board meetings, welcomes new participants and encourages younger people to join or offer ideas. “In the Internet, Facebook and communication realm, there’s a lot of stuff that us oldsters aren’t conversant in,” said O’Mara, 61. “We are interested in new ideas and new approaches.”
You can find SCCAR on Facebook or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information about SCCAR, read this 2008 A News Café article by Tom O’Mara.
Candace L. Brown has been a newspaper and magazine reporter and editor for 20 years. She lives in Redding and can be reached at email@example.com.