[Vision2020] Casual Friday: A life mission of standing against hate

Moscow Cares moscowcares at moscow.com
Fri Jan 19 13:50:50 PST 2018

Courtesy of today’s (January 19, 2018) Lewiston Tribune with a very special thanks to Moscow’s Own Joann Muneta.


Casual Friday: A life mission of standing against hate

MOSCOW - If you can make a difference, it is your obligation to do so.

Joann Muneta

That core belief has served as a guiding light for Joann Muneta, 82, since she and her husband moved from New York to Moscow nearly 60 years ago. She found it easier in a small community to get involved and to advocate for diversity issues and against bigotry and hatred.

"It's about having a world we can live in safely with harmony and giving everyone a chance," she said. "I have always found beauty and excitement and richness in diversity."

Craig Clohessy: You serve as the chairwoman of the Latah County Human Rights Task Force, which originally formed in 1988. What got that organization going and how did you get involved?

Joann Muneta: Well, it was largely in response to the neo-Nazi movement in northern Idaho - Coeur d'Alene and Hayden Lake. A number of us felt like we had to do something and formed a loose organization to talk about what to do, and that eventually morphed into the Latah County Human Rights Task Force.

CC: What are some of the larger issues the task force has addressed over the years?

JM: Our basic mission is to oppose bigotry and hatred and to celebrate diversity and inclusion. Actually, it used to be 'tolerance' and we've changed it from tolerating people to including them. One of the larger issues was the white supremacy movement in our state. And there were always kind of feelers coming down. You would see posters on campus that were obviously put up by the Aryan Nations. We knew they probably had their eye on Moscow and we wanted to show that this was not a place that would welcome them. At that time also, the Rev. Bill Wassmuth (a former Catholic priest who fought against white supremacists) was organizing a Northwest coalition, which has actually re-formed a few years ago. So there were task forces like ours that were forming in several communities. The first one was Coeur d'Alene and they were in the eye of the storm up there. And then Sandpoint and so on. We were part of that coalition.

CC: What issues are being addressed today by the Latah County Human Rights Task Force?

JM: We're cognizant of the national conversation and we always want to show how it's relevant in our community, our county. Things we've worked on have been anti-bullying and immigrant rights. We've been active in trying to add the words 'sexual orientation and gender expression' to the state anti-discrimination policy. ... We try to be very proactive, too. And education, especially of young students, is part of what we do. That is evident right now with the Martin Luther King art and essay contest. (Students submit an essay or create an artistic piece in the medium of their choice about equality and social, racial and ethnic justice. Winners are selected and awarded scholarships.) Also, the past few years we've brought in Living Voices, which is a drama group about social issues. It brings history to life and we bring that program into the school. We sponsor movies, we collaborate with other groups and we're active in helping to put on Finding the Center. That's a Northwest coalition. I could go on and on.

CC: Have you personally experienced situations - particularly in regard to your Jewish faith, or as a woman, or about your husband, who is Japanese-American?

JM: I grew up during World War II, and my whole family in Europe was wiped out. That's pretty personal. Over the years there have been occasions, remarks. ... My husband, people always ask, was he (in a) concentration camp in the United States. He was not because he lived in Montana. But our sister-in-law who grew up in Seattle was in Minidoka (an internment camp in Idaho) at the age of 5. All her life she couldn't talk about it, it was such a scarring (event). ... So yes, being minorities, you're always cognizant of the fact that things are different for minorities.

CC: Talk a little about the annual MLK art and essay contest, breakfast and the recognition ceremony.

JM: This is the 25th breakfast. I'm not sure how long we've been doing the art and essay contest. The first breakfast we did was (at) what is now city hall. We had about 100 people attend. The second year we had more and it was obvious we were bursting at the seams so we moved to the then-junior high, now (Moscow) middle school. And it kind of evolved. We said, 'Let's do something to celebrate Martin Luther King's birthday.' Other people were doing other things, so we had a breakfast. It evolved with adding the Rosa Parks Human Rights Achievement Award, the art and essay contest. We've had some amazing speakers over the years. I really think it's an important event because it brings so many people together who are working on different things, different parts of the community. I see them greet each other. ... (It's) like they look forward to seeing each other at this event once a year, which surprises me. It gives you an idea how active the community is and it's grown more active over the years, which is something to be proud of, and also it means there's a lot of things to be active about.

CC: Is there anything else you'd like to add?

JM: You asked how I became active. When we came here to Moscow, I was so shocked to find - this was even before the neo-Nazis - there was a spate of swastikas being drawn on people's houses and cars in Pullman. I had some very good friends who moved here and (one) was a survivor. Her father died at Dachau (a Nazi concentration camp in Germany). To have her move here and see Nazis marching in Coeur d'Alene, I think that's what made me an activist. A big part of my activity has been with the arts. And I think when I work in the arts, I'm working for human rights and when I'm working for human rights, I'm working for the arts. It's important to bring art groups of different cultural backgrounds for the students in our total area here, because we reach out to the rural communities. It's an important way of teaching human rights without lecturing to them. They learn about the cultures. Or they see a ballet company with different backgrounds working together and I look to this as an important part of what I've done over the past 40-some years.


Seeya 'round town, Moscow, because . . .

"Moscow Cares" (the most fun you can have with your pants on)
Tom Hansen
Moscow, Idaho
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://mailman.fsr.com/pipermail/vision2020/attachments/20180119/4ea69c79/attachment-0001.html>

More information about the Vision2020 mailing list