Area leadership creates diversity training plan to combat racist message
Associated Press, Kune 19, 2003
BAY CITY — A man referred to by some civil rights groups as one of the country’s most extreme white supremacists says he’s leaving the area and heading south.
Meanwhile, area leaders are forming a community coalition and creating a diversity training program to combat the racist and anti-Semitic messages of James P. Wickstrom.
About 150 people showed up for a forum Monday at Temple Israel to discuss Wickstrom’s presence in the community.
“This is not the community that accepts this kind of organization in our midst,” said Betsy S. Kellman, regional director for the Anti-Defamation League in Michigan.
The meeting, which lasted more than two hours, was called in response to news that Wickstrom has been holding meetings at a Hampton Township furniture store for the past two years.
Wickstrom, 60, who has said he lives somewhere in the Essexville area, preaches a message, using the Bible, that is strongly pro-white and anti-Jewish. He openly calls for violence against Jews.
Wickstrom said in an e-mail to the Bay City Times on Tuesday morning that he plans to move to Tennessee in a couple of weeks.
Leaders from the temple and area churches attended Monday’s meeting, along with officials from Hampton Township, the FBI, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Detroit, Bay City and Michigan State police, the state Department of Civil Rights and community organizations.
The meeting was closed to the media.
“There was no panic, there was no hostility,” Kellman said of the meeting. “It was a good community group coming together to talk about what’s going on in the community.”
She said the coalition is being put together “to do positive things in the community rather than do negative things.”
Kellman said the Anti-Defamation League plans to conduct diversity and anti-bias training in the schools using a program called “A World of Difference.” The program, taught in schools throughout the country, is designed for kindergarten through 12th graders.
She said the coalition and the training are still in the planning stages, and no one has been picked to lead the effort.