Lansing planning to ‘Win’ despite Nazi rally

By |2018-01-15T20:25:45-05:00April 13th, 2006|News|

By Dawn Wolfe Gutterman

LANSING – The Michigan Nazis are coming – and the city of Lansing is ready for them.
Officially named the National Socialist Movement Northwest, the extremist group plans a “White Power” rally at the Michigan State Capitol April 22 from 2-4 p.m.
Rather than give the extremists an audience, Mayor Virgil Bernero’s office and a local theatre group have made plans to turn the day into a celebration and a memorial for Holocaust victims and survivors.
From 1-5 p.m. at Eastern High School’s Don Johnson Field House, Bernero’s office will host “Win the Day,” “a great party” celebrating Lansing’s diversity, according to Bernero Deputy Chief of Staff Randy Hannan.
The event will feature bands, guest speakers, and school and other performing groups, said Hannan. A list of performers and speakers was still being finalized at press time, but Hannan said that invitations had gone out to groups including Lansing’s gay men’s choir and MSU’s acapella group, among others. Confirmed performers include local bands Global Village and Harvey Lee, Fantasia Ballet Folklorico, and country performer Ray Rodriguez. In addition to performers and speakers, Hannon said the event will feature “a wide variety of ethnic foods,” as well as games for all ages.
“We’ve decided to turn our collective backs on the Nazis and hold a celebration of Lansing’s diversity,” said Hannon, who added that the event was Bernero’s idea. According to Hannon, the event has drawn “a lot of sponsorships and support from the community.”
“Celebrating our diversity and demonstrating our unity sends a clear message that we stand together as one in rejecting the hateful rhetoric of those who would try and divide us,” Bernero said.
While the city is celebrating and the Nazis are ranting, Sunsets with Shakespeare will host a special performance of “Dear Esther,” a play about the largest death camp escape of World War II at Sobibor, with free tickets provided by the city.
According to the theatre group, “The play works to dissect the soul of a survivor, exploring issues of death, belief in God, revenge, hatred, justice, luck, guilt and memory.”
The play will run from April 14-23; however, the April 22, 2 p.m. production will feature a “talk back” about the play and the issue of bigotry with Jeffrey Montgomery, executive director of the Triangle Foundation, Kevin and Tammy Epling, who are leading a fight to get an anti-bullying law passed in Michigan, and the cast and crew of the show. The event, sponsored by local paper City Pulse and underwritten by an anonymous donor, “was designed as an alternative way to protest the Nazi rally in downtown Lansing by remembering those who have been the victims of Nazi violence in history.”
In addition to millions of Jews and ethnic minorities, it is estimated that roughly 5,000 to 10,000 gay men were sent to concentration camps for the “crime” of homosexuality under the Nazi regime.
{ITAL Eastern High School is located at 220 N. Pennsylvania Ave. in Lansing. For more information or to help out with the city of Lansing’s “Win the Day” event call Mayor Virgil Bernero’s office at 517-374-8669.
Sunsets with Shakespeare will perform “Dear Esther” from April 14-23 at the RE Olds Anderson Rotary Barn at Woldumar Nature Center. Free tickets for the April 22 performance are available at Gone Wired Cafe, 2021 East Michigan Avenue; The City of Lansing Department of Human Relations and Community Services, 4th Floor Lansing City Hall; and Woldumar Nature Center. Seating is limited to 169 people. With the exception of the free April 22 showing, tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for students, seniors and Woldumar members. For more information visit }http://www.sunsetswithshakespeare.com.
For more information about gay Holocaust victims see “The Men with the Pink Triangle: The True Life and Death Story of Homosexuals in the Nazi Death Camps,” by Heinz Helger, published in 1980 by Alyson Publishing.

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