zerohour: No Haters Here!
In a new and innovative approach to educating youth on human relations issues, the Commission recently launched its “zerohour: No Haters Here!” youth campaign to counter the rise in youth-related hate crimes. The aim of the campaign is to inspire young people to take action against bias and bigotry on their campuses and in their community.
“The project is a culmination of two years of start-up work, including research, focus groups and workshops in area high schools and juvenile hall,” says Robin Toma, Executive Director of the County Human Relations Commission. “When we heard the startling statistics and personal stories of County youth who struggle with violent behavior directed towards themselves or others, we knew we had to get involved,” says Jehmu Green, Executive Director for Rock the Vote.
The Zerohour Campaign is three tiered. The first tier is the mass media component that seeks to disseminate an anti-discrimination message to young people throughout L.A. The cornerstone of the mass media effort are clever public service announcements developed in collaboration with Rock the Vote, that illustrate the senselessness of discrimination. Directed at young people ages 12-18, these “reality shoot” ads target, rather than the victims of discrimination per se, “by-stander” youth who witness harassment and bullying and are now being asked to take action against it when they see it. The ads direct youth to zerohour.com (link), an edgy, youth-driven website where youth can learn more about specific forms of bias and how they can get involved with local programs to become social change agents against bias and inequity in their schools and communities. The site provides youth with ideas and resources for transforming their social idealism into practical solutions. In the first five months of operation, the site attracted over 70,000 unique hits and over 1,400 youth have signed on to help at the neighborhood level to fight bias and discrimination.
The zerohour PSA’s are complemented “wildpostings” posters illustrating different forms of discrimination that are “guerilla posted” by youth throughout the County. Other such zerohour “collateral” as stickers, buttons, t-shirts, pens and Action Packets –a guide for would-be human relations youth activists-are disseminated to LA youth as part of the campaign. The creative concept behind the ads, website and promotional pieces was provided by CrispinPorter+Bogusky, a highly reviewed advertising agency known for social activism–including the creation of the youth anti-smoking ads in The Truth Campaign. The PSA’s were produced, filmed and edited by Public Interest Productions, a multiple Emmy-Award winning social activist production firm.
The second tier of the Zerohour Campaign is the programmatic aspect carried out by the Commission’s “Get Real L.A.” Coalition, the first and only partnership between a government agency and a coalition of youth serving community-based agencies to provide comprehensive programs and strategies to address intergroup tension and improve human relations in L.A. County schools. The coalition seeks to create safer, more learning-conducive environments in schools by offering holistic and comprehensive human relations programming. Together, Coalition members provide school-based trainings in the areas of self-identity, anti-bias, diversity, combating bigotry and racism, hate crime and hate speech, cross cultural understanding, peer mediation, homophobia, sexism, and youth organizing.
The third tier of the Zerohour Campaign is the Commission’s Youth Advisory Council Team (Youth ACT!). Comprised of youth from throughout the County, Youth A.C.T. was created to give youth input into the development of the Commission’s programs and campaigns. Members gain an education in interpersonal and peace building skills, the creation of safer schools and communities, and the prevention of hate-related violence and discrimination. Members work together to implement projects that aim to foster respect, tolerance, and cultural understanding and to address discrimination, intergroup violence and inequities in their communities and schools. Some Youth ACT projects have included the production of a CD of anti-discrimination songs members wrote and a CD release party where they performed their songs for their peers and several LA-based youth groups. Youth ACT members have also provided valuable focus group input on the development of zerohour campaign elements. Youth ACT members also teach anti-discrimination workshops in schools and at youth conferences.
The Commission is also partnering with the Boys & Girls Club’s Southern California Alliance to disseminate the zerohour message to youth throughout L.A. County through their 67 neighborhood clubs. The L.A. County Public Library system and Parks and Recreation will also be used as sites for distribution of materials, activities, special events for Zerohour. KCLS L.A. Unified School District’s in-house channel, with the potential to be seen by over 900,000 viewers in the Southern California region, has also agreed to support the Zerohour campaign by running the public service announcements, providing on-air coverage of Zerohour events and promoting the campaign’s launch. “Together, these partners represent a tremendous potential for distribution of Zerohour programs, events and materials,” says HRC Executive Director Robin Toma.