When the Westboro Baptist Church announced that they were coming to Richmond, Virginia to protest local Jewish and LGBT organizations, the local community was abuzz with ideas on how to respond. Some people felt it best not to respond at all, some people planned funny counter-protests, others planned peaceful counter-protests, others planned angry, retaliatory counter-protests.
We are four Richmond mothers (Sarah, Patience, Jessica, and Sara) with ten children among us, and the Thursday before the WBC visit to Richmond, we stayed up late, emailing and Twittering amongst ourselves about what we could and should do. We didn’t want to give the WBC any more attention for their hate-filled messages, but at the same time, we felt it was important to stand up to bullies and to show the local Jewish and LGBT people that they were supported by their community. We struggled to find an idea that would spread kindness instead of just reacting to hate. We felt we couldn’t just ignore it, but we were lost as to how to turn something this bad into something good using our usual methods.
A friend from New York gave us the idea that started this all out: when the WBC had visited his synagogue, the synagogue had asked congregation members to pledge $1 for every minute the WBC was there. They raised $10,000 in one hour.
We were immediately captivated and enchanted by the possibility of not only ignoring or protesting something bad, but actually using it to create good in our community. We saw the wonderful possibility that we count not only counteract hatred with kindness, we could actually transform hatred into kindness.
We went to bed late Thursday night, dreaming of possibilities. We thought that best case scenario, we would appeal to our immediate friends and family and raise $500 or maybe, if we succeeded beyond our wildest expectations, we might even raise $1000.
Friday morning, we set up a Facebook group and a ChipIn.com page to collect donations. Five days later, when the WBC arrived in Richmond, we had collected nearly $10,000, had been covered by all the major local media outlets and a few national ones, and had been asked by local rabbis to keep the donations open until the end of the week.
By Friday, when we closed down the site (one week after it was opened), more than $14,000 had been collected for local Jewish and LGBT charities in the name of the Westboro Baptist Church.
We started this site because we’re getting emails every week from people around the country who want to do something similar but don’t know where to start or how to do it. We started this site to share what we learned, and because the wonderful folks at Corgibytes and Design & Conquer wanted to help us get the word out, so they offered to build and design a website for us for free if we told them how we did it.
Anyone can do it. It sends a powerful message of love and support to the local people organizations who are the target of so much hate and vitriol from WBC. In our city, kindness and love overcame hate. In our city, people of all faiths, creeds, colors, political affiliations, and sexualities came together to show that we won’t stand for this and that we support our follow Richmonders, regardless of religion or sexual orientation. In Richmond, Virginia (the 64th largest city in the country) we had more than 3000 people join our Facebook group and 500 people reach into their pockets to give more than $14,000 to four Jewish and LGBT organizations.
Imagine the possibilities in your city!
Ready to get started? Read our step by step instructions to get things going. And use our manifesto to keep you grounded in your effort, because we needed to constantly remind ourselves what we were doing and why.