The Human Relations Council of the Greater Hemet, San Jacinto and Menifee Regions was started by Charles Knox, a former legislative aide and civil rights activist, in 1998. He joined with other persons in the community: Ajit Singh, a businessman from India, Dr. Joseph Diaz, an educator of Mexican descent, Michael Madrigal, a Native American church administrator, Dorothy Trammel, an African-American registered nurse from the Midwest who first integrated the Pasadena CA area, and a few others. Charles watched the growing diversity in the Valley happen gradually and then faster and faster, as head of one of the first black families who settled here in the 1970’s.
“Race and racial intolerance are sensitive topics in our communities, and need careful sensitive attention. Believing strongly in the enormous value of ethnic diversity, the founders of the H.R.C. commit themselves to promoting activities that will improve communication between ethnic/cultural groups and foster understanding, respect and appreciation.”
The Human Relations Council has continued to follow in the footsteps of Charles Knox — in fact, he is still one of our most valued members. Our mission is to promote positive human relations in the community, which we have done for over fifteen years.
Initially prompted by hate graffiti in Idyllwild, a concerned group of community members on the Hill began to provide films and discussion to promote diversity, under the auspices of the Human Relations Council. We are continuing this “Seeing Diversity Film Series” in Idyllwild through our “Family Monday Movies” at the Idyllwild Library (7 movies throughout the summer vacation time), as well as enhancing the compilation of a lending collection of books and videos to be used by community groups and schools.
We initiated “Teens & Tweens”, a monthly diversity activity series for Idyllwild Middle School students. This two hour series takes place once a month after school on Friday. Students are led in a diversity activity, watch a movie celebrating diversity and encouraging acceptance and understanding, join in a discussion about the movie and how its message could impact the students’ lives, and exercise some kind of creative art activity. Through these activities, students can deepen their understanding and appreciation of race, culture, religion, sexual identity, color, ethnicity, economic status, and other forms of diversity. They are also learning how to recognize bias, stereotypes and prejudice. They have the unique opportunity to examine how they would respond to everyday dilemmas that test their character and value system.
Although we’ve had a slow start with the “Teens & Tweens” this school year due to ailing committee members, we are now back on track and very grateful to the Idyllwild Community Fund for allowing the Human Relations Council to continue in its mission. ICF funding has made it possible for us to purchase the films we show and to pay for advertising, including ads in the Town Crier and the printing of flyers and posters. ICF funding also allows us to purchase supplies and snacks for our “Teens & Tweens” activity series and to pay some of our field trip expenses.
As a final aside, the Idyllwild “Seeing Diversity Film Series” has served as a pilot project for the other areas that HRC serves. Starting in April 2014, the film series will begin for the communities of the Hemet/San Jacinto Valley.