Tag Archives: anti-hate

Anti-Defamation League of SB 

This past January 6, Americans watched in horror as an insurrection fueled by violent conspiracy theories and white supremacy extremism attacked the Capitol in Washington, D.C., the very seat of our democracy. The Anti-Defamation League might have been shocked, but they weren’t surprised by what they have called “a predictable act of political violence fueled by years of increasing extremism.” 

To counter forces that continue to pose a threat to American security and democracy, ADL sprang into action, creating its PROTECT plan, an acronym that contains a seven-pronged government and society approach to countering and preventing such violence in the future while still protecting civil liberties. Still, everyday Americans might be left with feelings of helplessness, and wondering what we can do individually to help fix the problem. 

That’s where the Tri-Counties office of the ADL comes into play. 

“It’s natural for us all to have anxiety when we see what happened at the Capitol, or when we see some evidence of extremism and hatred in our own midst,” said Dan Meisel, ADL’s Santa Barbara-based regional director for Ventura, Santa Barbara, and San Luis Obispo Counties. “It’s important for residents to know that there’s a local organization that is responding to these kinds of incidents and trying to prevent them. The message I want to get across is that we’re not powerless. There is a lot we are doing locally to prevent normalization of hate and bias in our area. We can learn to be allies for each other and we can advocate for each other and in coalition. And the more broad and diverse the coalition that’s advocating against hate, the more effective we can be.”

To that end, the local ADL office offers everything from analysis of extremist activity for law enforcement to educating youngsters and adults. 

ADL Santa Barbara Regional Director Dan Meisel

“We receive and investigate reports from Tri-Counties residents on extremist activity in person and online, whether it’s a grocery shopper wearing a highly offensive T-Shirt or the appearance of White Supremacist or antisemitic fliers or graffiti,” Meisel said. “Our Center on Extremism analyzes those incidents and sometimes finds information that helps identify the perpetrators. Our efforts and services could include advocacy on a victim’s behalf. It could mean mediating between parties. It could be forming or participating in coalitions to advocate on particular issues, or it could mean providing educational programming in response to either an incident or a pattern of incidents at a school or even in a workplace.”

Indeed, perhaps surprisingly to those who only hear about the ADL in response to a highly-publicized hate incident, the organization is even more involved in trying to prevent violence and hateful activities from occurring by getting deeper into the root of the problem. 

“It’s hard to prevent this kind of behavior from people who are already infected with hatred, but we strongly believe that extremism can be prevented with effective educational programming about inclusivity, mutual respect, and the inaccuracies and harmful impact of stereotypes, hate speech, and hate symbols,” Meisel explained. 

The ADL provides educational programming directly to students as well as professional development for teachers, and also offers foundational anti-bias workshops for the workplace, including Holocaust education and free online trainings and lesson plans for educators who teach about the Holocaust. 

“Awareness of antisemitism and the hurt it has caused both in the present day and through the centuries can help to prevent extremist acts in the future,” Meisel said. 

But even as the insurrection at the Capitol reverberates two months later, the ADL isn’t only concerned about extremist violence, as a much larger number of people are impacted by normalization of biased or hateful conduct, Meisel said. That’s why the larger day-to-day work of the nonprofit takes place at the grassroots level. 

“That’s why I often speak about the importance of calling out and checking biased attitudes before they escalate into biased or hateful conduct,” he said. 

Indeed, ADL encourages local schools to respond to a hateful incident by adopting programs and practices that help create sustainably inclusive environments that prevent as well as counter such behavior. 

“It used to be a school would call us to say there was a swastika on a desk, and ask us to come in and do an assembly. But that assembly may cause some students to feel punished for the bad acts of a few other students,” Meisel noted. “It is far better for the institution to consider, ‘What is our vision for an inclusive school? Let’s devise a plan for creating that.’ Then students, teachers, and administrators experience the programming as part of collective efforts to realize and sustain a larger vision of their community.”

Ideally, Meisel said, when schools request a training, they have a strategic plan in place and ADL’s offering is part of it. 

“That’s music to my ears,” Meisel said. “I am heartened by the dramatic increase I am seeing in recent months of both public and private institutions creating strategic plans to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion in their community or workplace. The best outcomes in promoting inclusivity tend to occur as a result of sustained and coordinated efforts with many opportunities for education, reflection, and examination of policies and practices.” 

As a former First Amendment litigator and filmmaker with a focus on education equity, Meisel – a Santa Barbarian who moved back to town in 2010 to have his family be closer to his parents who still live in his boyhood home – is perhaps uniquely qualified to be running the ADL’s Santa Barbara, a position he assumed after 10 years as a volunteer. 

“The thread in each of those jobs is communication about issues that I’m passionate about,” he said. “Initially I felt litigation might be a good way to go at them. Then I thought storytelling could be a more free way because I wouldn’t be confined by the unique specifics of disputes that happened to arise. Stepping into ADL is really a blend of both worlds. We have litigation, but we’re mostly doing a lot of communication and community education, presentations, and discussions about these issues. It’s all about effective communication and getting to the bottom of these issues and expanding people’s horizons. We need to stand up for victims and we need to contest and condemn hateful behavior, but we also need to keep the conversation going. I might be an optimist, but I truly believe that continued engagement in education and civil discourse can bring people out of hateful perspectives.”

Donations to ADL support the work of the local office and contributions from ADL’s subject matter experts and staff in other offices. Visit santabarbara.adl.org for more information. 

ADL Adds Exceptional Community Leaders to its Santa Barbara/Tri-Counties Board

Mark A. Goldstein, Esq., Regional Board Chair
Jill Goldworn
Judi Koper, Esq.

ADL (the Anti-Defamation League) Santa Barbara/Tri-Counties is proud to announce the induction of five new leaders to its Regional Board.  

John Daly, a retired events industry veteran who founded “The Key Class” to teach life skills and etiquette to students from the eighth-grade level through college levels; Shannon Gaston, owner of Crushcakes & Café in Santa Barbara and founder of C2C (Crushcakes 2 Communities), which donates to local civil rights causes; Jill Goldworn, co-Founder/CRO of thefirstclub.com, a worldwide digital entertainment rewards platform, and member of the Board of Advisors for UCSB Customer Experience Program; Judi Koper, an attorney who serves on the Assessment Appeals Board and Civil Service Commission of Santa Barbara County; and Jeffrey Winter, a former hospital and health systems Chief Executive, Board Chairman of two home care organizations that also serve people with intellectual disabilities, and Board member for an Autism services organization; have all joined as ADL Regional Board Members.

John Daly
Jeffrey Winter

This impressive group joins a roster of 29 other community leaders, led by recently elected Regional Board Chair, Mark Goldstein, a partner and intellectual property attorney with SoCal IP Law Group LLP. 

Dan Meisel, ADL Santa Barbara/Tri-Counties Regional Director, shared, “This is the largest group of new board members we have inducted in my decade of involvement with the organization. We are tremendously proud of the group of change-makers selected to join our Board and look forward to their important input and guidance as we continue to expand our programs and work throughout the Tri-Counties.” 

Dismantling Racism on the Central Coast

In 2008, Fabiola Gonzalez-Gutierrez took part in Just Communities’ intensive CommUnity Leadership Institute designed to teach up to 40 local high school students about all the “isms” that get in the way of social justice.

“All my experiences with racism and classism had been private,” Gonzalez-Gutierrez says. “For the first time those experiences were welcomed and supported. As a young person you need that validation, to know that you are not alone.”

Ten years later, after graduating from the University of California, Los Angeles, Gonzalez-Gutierrez came to work for the nonprofit that had opened her eyes a decade before.

That nonprofit, Just Communities, “advances justice by building leadership, fostering change, and dismantling all forms of prejudice, discrimination, and oppression.”

Its staff of five helps youth, educators, and families through cultural competency trainings for organizational leaders, running education seminars for the general public, and producing leadership training institutes for students and teachers.

Gonzalez-Gutierrez, Just Communities’ Development and Communications Manager, and Executive Director Melissa Rodezno-Patrino point to the outcome of a recent student seminar at a local Santa Barbara high school. There, students serving on-campus suspensions had to do so in the cafeteria. At lunchtime they were made to eat their lunches facing the wall. “It was dehumanizing,” Gonzalez-Gutierrez says.

As part of the Just Communities’ model the students gave a presentation to the principal. That was in August. Come September, when school started, the practice had been dismantled.

Rodezno-Patrino likens this example to the greater “sense of awakening” about racial injustice gripping the country. “Once you know what is happening there is no way to go back,” she says. “We at Just Communities have always had this conversation. We are not a regular nonprofit where you are treating the ailment with a band-aid. We are treating it directly.”

Every year the staff serves more than 400 young people and adults throughout the region. And every day they are hearing from new organizations looking for tools to dismantle racism in their work. For nearly 20 years, Just Communities has been doing just that

Creating a Community of Heroic Youth

In April of 1999, two high school seniors walked onto the campus of Columbine High School in Colorado with semi-automatic weapons and proceeded to kill 12 of their classmates and one teacher. 

The tragedy sparked incredible action and lasting change 1,000 miles away in Santa Barbara. That summer two local therapists and educators – Jennifer Freed and Rendy Freedman – experimented with a mix of social-emotional learning and creative expression to show that it is much harder to harm someone if you know who they are. 

The pair and some very underpaid staff led 20 teenagers through a series of exercises that brought the group closer together. AHA! – Attitude, Harmony, Achievement – was born. 

With the novel mission of inspiring communities to feel safe, seen, celebrated, and emotionally connected, AHA! has – over its 22 years – steadily equipped teenagers and educators with social-emotional intelligence to dismantle apathy, prevent despair, and interrupt hate-based behavior.

In 2008, Carpinteria High School was experiencing conflict between Latinos and White surfers. “The parents recognized that there needed to be some type of intervention,” says AHA! co-founder Jennifer Freed. 

That year, Freed, Freedman, and AHA!’s growing team of facilitators introduced a 10-week “seminar” that touched every Carpinteria High School freshman. AHA! staff visited freshman classrooms weekly, delivering a curriculum that focused on emotion management, prejudice reduction, empathy, celebration of difference, and compassion. Through small group discussions and exercises, AHA! facilitators knitted classrooms and campuses together to improve climate and reduce ostracism and bullying.

The results were stunning, as they have been everywhere AHA! has set up shop since. Suspensions went down by 70%, students’ feeling of hope jumped up by 50%, and test scores increased by an average of 11%. 

“The only thing that breaks down prejudice is getting to know people,” Freed says. “It’s all about getting to know the person next to you instead of staring straight ahead.” 

 In two decades, AHA! has brought social-emotional learning to 25,000 students throughout Santa Barbara and Carpinteria middle and high schools, while training 2,000 educators and supporting 2,500 parents. 

Every year, the organization steadily provides in- and after-school programming to more than 2,000 young people, while training upwards of 350 area educators and scores of bilingual parents and guardians.

The result: armies of young people equipped with the social and emotional intelligence to dismantle racism while creating harmony in their communities and inside themselves.

Fighting Hate for Good

Dan Meisel was made for his current job running the Anti-Defamation League’s (ADL) Santa Barbara-based Tri-Counties regional office. 

Raised in Santa Barbara, Meisel went on to practice First Amendment law and general litigation at a prestigious San Francisco law firm. From there he wrote and produced films including All She Can, a fictional drama about a Mexican-American teenager’s struggle to pursue her college dreams, which premiered at Sundance and aired on HBO.

“That film was my entrée into education equity issues,” Meisel says, and those issues would become a key focus of his ADL experience locally and nationally.

Chair, Education Equity Task Force, Dan Meisel, speaking at the National Commission Meeting. The annual, National Commision Meeting in Houston, Texas. November 5, 2018.

After finishing the film and moving back from New York to Santa Barbara in 2010, Meisel felt he needed to get a “foot back into constitutional law, policy and civil rights.” During the next 10 years he would serve – as a volunteer – as ADL’s Regional Board Chair, Chair of ADL’s National Civil Rights Task Force on Education Equity and many other ADL committees. In 2019, when he was asked to step in as lead staff of the nonprofit’s local office, it felt like a natural fit.

As Regional Director, Meisel works with local staff and a network of 25 other regional offices and ADL’s Community Support Center in New York to further ADL’s mission “to stop the defamation of the Jewish people and to secure just and fair treatment for all.”

ADL has long been a leader in responding to acts of anti-Semitism, but one of Meisel’s key tasks is correcting assumptions that ADL is an organization of Jewish people serving only the Jewish community. “Since its inception, ADL has believed that any minority is safe only when all minorities are safe,” he says, “and ADL has emerged as a diverse and formidable anti-hate organization because of its ironclad commitment to protecting the rights of all people to be treated fairly regardless of their race, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity or level of ability.”

To that end, in addition to responding to anti-Semitism, ADL’s local efforts have included highlighting education equity issues largely impacting Latinx and other students of color, providing educational programming for teachers and students about how their own identities and experiences influence and sometimes inhibit the way they understand and interact with others, and directly responding to incidents of bias, hate and extremism. 

ADL provides education programs for educators, students, and non-school workplaces as well.

“ADL has been a transformative experience,” says recent Oak Park High School graduate Sam Barney-Gibbs. “ADL came to my school, educating students on combatting the manifestation of hate and promoting acceptance, and they also helped me find the kind of person I want to be both professionally and in my day-to-day life.”

“Given the marked increase of online hate and polarization in recent years, ADL’s work is as important as ever,” Meisel notes, “and it has been both invigorating and heartwarming to be a part of ADL’s effective efforts to “fight hate for good.’”