Posted December 5, 2017
Editor’s note: This is Part 1 of a two-part series. See Part 2 here.
“You could see the ashes for a couple days. You shouldn’t just clean that up, you should see that, and the community should see the effects of that.”
Kate Lawson, of Hudson, witnessed the looming threat of tension between Hudson community members firsthand. After a shooting in Orlando where a man killed 49 people and wounded 58 others at an LGTBQ+ nightclub, Lawson and her family decided to hang a pride flag to show their support.
“Inclusion is something that is really important in our home,” she said. “We just felt like that was the least we could do.”
The first time someone stole the flag was on election night, when Donald Trump became the 45th president of the United States. Lawson’s husband was the first to notice the trouble.
“He woke up to hear people screaming in our lawn, yelling,” she said.
Lawson called the Hudson Police Department and reported the incident. The officer told her that maybe the people just liked the flag and wanted to keep it for themselves. Lawson explained to the police that this was a hate incident.
Lawson decided to retaliate peacefully. She and her husband decided to put a sign in their yard saying they didn’t change their mind; the LGTBQ+ community still has their support. After that, there was an outpouring of support from the Hudson community. Complete strangers would knock on their door and say thank you. Their neighbors bought pride flags for themselves as well as bringing replacement flags for the Lawson home.
The event escalated in the spring, when their flag and three others were burned. At this point, Lawson was grateful the police became more concerned and involved. If there were incidences, there was a specific officer Lawson could call to report it. Lawson saw the ashes of the flags while walking her son to school. “It’s definitely eerie and upsetting and real,” she said.
Lawson lived through a moment that made the need for inclusion and diversity in Hudson more real. “That’s the part that is really troubling,” she said. “What do we not even know about, what do we not see given our identities, that our community members face all the time.”
Events such as the one Lawson and other community members faced made it clear there was a need for change in Hudson. Hudson resident Tony Bol decided to rally those in the community hoping for a change. On Nov. 14, he led a meeting for those in support of diversity and inclusion in Hudson.
The small room was filled to the brim, with some people even having to stand in the hallway. Everyone packed in the room introduced themselves, some as members of minority groups who have been affected by the negative attitude of some Hudson residents, others as allies who are hoping for a change.
Jennifer Holt heard about the meeting last minute and knew she had to be there to support a cause she feels strongly about.
“I guess I believe that there are more people that are open and caring and willing for acceptance, and those voices need to be heard,” she said. “It tends to be the ones with the darts that hurt the most and seem to be the loudest, but my faith in humanity is not lost.”
The group began discussing things they have noticed to be problematic in the Hudson area, beginning with the LGBTQ+ flags being stolen and burned. Next, the discussion shifted to a dialogue about what has taken place in Hudson so far surrounding the topic of diversity and inclusion.
The Phipps Center in downtown Hudson is displaying an exhibit about world religions. Hudson resident Deb Monicken visited the exhibit with a guide from the Phipps Center to explain things. “This reviews three different religions; the Jewish, the Christian and the Muslim,” she said. “That artist tried to portray some of their experiences in their religions and its cultural effect. It is a great starting point.”
Bol thought the exhibit was timely and even a bit bold. “It was very helpful, I congratulate the Phipps for being a centering institution to do something like that,” he said. “In this environment, in an environment where they could have been coached to not do this, just to lie low. I am hoping we can thank them for supporting a diverse community.”
Hudson High School has aimed to educate their students in a similar way with world history classes. Bol’s daughter, HHS senior Yasha Bol, says the classes were helpful, adding some community members might feel a different way. She mentioned some parents thought the intention of the class would be to convert their child by the teaching of Islam and the Quran rather than expose them to different religions and cultures of the world.
Long ago when Hudson was beginning to settle into the bustling town that is it, Tony Bol said he learned that white families would buy up properties so others couldn’t. Bol often sees a truck with a confederate flag rip through his neighborhood. He wrote about it in a letter to the editor and has received negative backlash.
“Are you going to start complaining about our Green Bay Packer bumper stickers too?” Bol quoted from the remarks he received after his letter.
After an hour of discussion, sharing stories and opinions, the group felt there was work to be done in Hudson. Yasha Bol wrote on a white board all the problems and issues the group discussed. What comes next, are the solutions. The group will meet again Dec. 12.