“The number one goal of any organization – and our community – should be to bring all voices to the table.”
Nicholas Linindoll knows a thing or two about hate. In fact, the 23-year-old Central Michigan University student considers himself a hate educator, and has even formed his own firm to help combat it.
“Beginning The Journey is a nonprofit organization that I started that seeks to expose the affects of hate and to cultivate an understanding and appreciation for human diversity,” he said. “I do trainings for businesses, schools, other nonprofit groups. They’re interactive workshops that get people talking about hate.”
Linindoll was inspired to do this work by a class he took at school.
It was an interpersonal communication class I took that got me started down this path,” he said. “Then I had the opportunity to meet Judy Shepard, Matthew Shepard’s mom, and just interactions with her kind of pointed me in that direction. She’s a remarkable woman and someone that I look up to highly.”
Since starting Beginning The Journey, Linindoll has spoken to dozens of groups in his pursuit to enlighten the world and eradicate hate.
“My workshops are completely inclusive,” he said. “They’re customizable to the organization that brings me in. They are really led by the audience so whereas an audience has had experiences in hate, that’s the direction the presentation takes because it’s completely interactive. So we talk about the structural ‘isms,’ how society has institutionalized hatred and formalized discrimination. But we also talk about those interpersonal instances where kids are picked on at the playground and a person is refused a job because they’re a different color or because they’re overweight or because of the religion they practice. So it’s more so about that feeling of being an outsider that we all know.”
Dealing with hate is hard work, though, and it can take a toll on even the most experienced hate educator.
“What keeps me centered and grounded and from not going crazy is my spiritual life,” said Linindoll. “I come from a really fundamentalist, right-wing background and never would have imagined myself in the place that I am until I fell in love with a boy. Oops! Now I’ve broadened my horizons and I understand that God created all people and it drives me to do this work because we’re all here for a purpose. We’re all here to bring about healing for this world. And so I guess making sure that I attend spiritual services, making sure that I engage in religious and theosophical conversations with my friends, those are the kind of things that keep me focused.”
When Linindoll is not busy giving a workshop or working on his website (www.beginningthejourney.org), he also lends his time to the Human Rights Campaign, where he is the co-chair of the membership committee for the Michigan Steering Committee.
“Basically, I oversee the booths at all the Pride events in the summer and I oversee membership distribution throughout the year so that our fliers and our membership brochures get places so that people are educated about what HRC is doing and can support the organization.”
Linindoll also just completed his term as co-president of Central Michigan University’s Gay Straight Alliance. In whatever he does, however, Linindoll makes sure that there’s room at the table for all who wish to contribute.
“I think one of the things that I’ve learned in the course of my dealings with people is that everyone has something to contribute, and three or four years ago I didn’t necessarily believe that,” he said. “A lot of people come from the mindset that they’re going to do the job right and their friends know how to do the job and they stay in their little circle. And I think it’s important to recognize the value of diversity and realize that young people, older people, people of all races and religious backgrounds and political mindsets, even if we don’t agree, we all have something to contribute. The number one goal of any organization – and our community – should be to bring all voices to the table. And I’m thankful that there have been people around that have recognized my voice and have seen my contribution and are willing to bring me to the table.”