Documentary seeks to expose hate in U.S.

As images of Columbine High School, the events of the Matthew Shepard case, and the brutal circumstances of James Byrd, Jr.’s death flashed across the screen, an auditorium full of students sat in attentive silence to view one of the features of Northern Kentucky University’s Diversity Week.

On Nov. 15, NKU students visited the Eva G. Farris Memorial Hall in BEP to see the presentation of “Journey to a Hate-Free Millenium,” a documentary focusing on hate in America today and how to become hate-free. Brent Scarpo, who filmed the documentary, also spoke prior to its presentation.

The Activities Programming Board hosted the event. Rachel Bates, a member of APB said she felt this was a tremendous program. Stephanie McGoldrick, the advisor for APB, also attended the event, and echoed Bates’ feelings. “I feel its effective for college students,” she said.

Scarpo has been involved in the entertainment industry for over 20 years. He is a former actor and model, and has involved himself in the industry in other ways as well. Among those, he helped cast the actors in “The Shawshank Redemption.” Scarpo began the documentary following the shootings at Columbine High School in early 1999, finished and presented it before the end of that year.

He began his talk by reading from a number of cards that listed statistics of hate crimes that have occurred on other college campuses, using them to segue into the film. He even touched on 9/11, saying, “If you extrapolate 9/11 down to its lowest common denominator, 9/11 was rooted in hate.”

He mentioned a new form of hate that is growing in size: e-mail. He related a story of a young boy who committed suicide because of the hateful e-mails and instant messages he constantly received.

He also discussed why he didn’t think tolerance would work in this day and age. “This is a new age,” he said, “and we need new ideals.”

Scarpo said he felt every university should have a three step plan for dealing with hate. First, they need to identify the hate. Second, they need create or unite the organizations on the campus who would deal with the hate. Lastly, according to Scarpo, they need to make an action plan to address the problems.

With that, the airing of the film began, and students watched as images played before them showed what hate can do to people. The family of James Byrd, Jr., who was killed and dismembered in Jasper, Texas, several years ago, was shown. Matthew Shepard’s mother, Judy Shepard, was interviewed. The Columbine shootings were relived again, as the story of Rachel Scott, a young girl who died for her beliefs, was told.

When the film ended, the awe and shock could be felt from anywhere in the room.

Scarpo continued to talk after the film’s conclusion, which opened a dialogue with the students. In that dialogue, he talked about how hate can affect and be affected by people’s everyday lives. “Hate will destroy this country,” he said. He offered students armbands, half black and half white. The bands had the words “hate free” on them. He also sold copies of the movie. He explained how he is taking all the money he makes from the sales of these items, and putting all the proceeds into a fund to make sure that all 19,000 high schools around the nation get a copy of his movie. He also ended the presentation with a request. Talking about the future of this country, as this generation will one day be leading this country, he said, “If you have an idea that’s going to change the world, don’t be my future. Be my present.”