Erase the Hate: “Hate is Not a Libertyville Value”

The “Erase the Hate” campaign is a movement founded in the North Park neighborhood in Chicago that has grown into an international initiative that aims to rid the world of hate and put goodness into the world; this campaign has recently spread to Libertyville High School.

Theater director and head of the “Erase the Hate” effort at LHS, Mr. Christopher Thomas, stated that the campaign “feels complex because hate is a complex issue that has many forms, not just here at LHS but [also] in the world, and we are taking a very simple approach to it.”

In the recent LHS Theatre production of “The Laramie Project,” the members of the Laramie, Wyoming, community highlighted in the play attest that “Hate is not a Laramie value.” “The Laramie Project” is based on the true story of the hate crime against Matthew Shepard, a 21-year-old student at the University of Wyoming who was robbed and beaten to death for his sexual orientation in 1998.

Freshman Clara Beauchamp, a student leader of “Erase the Hate,” joined the campaign through the theater program. She says a major objective of “Erase the Hate” is to raise awareness and bring the community into the initiative. “There’s no reason for anybody to hate [another,]” she stated simply.

The show, which is centered around more than 200 interviews conducted with Laramie residents, debuted in 2000 and has since become a global success. Mr. Thomas found Shepard’s story important and wanted to share it with the theater students here as well as the larger community.

According to Beauchamp, “Throughout reading the script and discovering all these characters all coming to life, we really found the recurrent theme of hate and erasing the hate.”

“Erase the Hate” at LHS relates to the Ghostlight Project, also sponsored by Mr. Thomas. In a literal sense, the ghostlight acts as a safety function as the light backstage that is nearly always on to keep people from tripping in total darkness during shows or rehearsals. However, it is also a symbol for the theater world and what its members believe in.

“It’s about doing some type of service or spreading good in the world, and that’s specific to LHS theatre,” said Mr. Thomas.

As part of the Ghostlight Project, the theater program participates in different  events to support charitable causes. For example, they went to Feed My Starving Children for the freshmen and sophomore play “Love/Sick” and to Sunrise Senior Living during the fall musical “The King and I,” where they sang songs from the musical “Cabaret” for the senior citizens.

The “Erase the Hate” event held in the library on Friday, April 2, was organized by the LHS Stageplayers but was not limited to those in the theater community. All students were welcome, and about 40 people were in attendance. Student leaders Beauchamp and junior Alic Lillydahl briefly explained the purpose of the meeting and the campaign, thanking the students for coming. Mr. Thomas expressed that “Erase the Hate” draws together people from all different clubs with similar meanings of standing up to hate.

Students can show support for the “Erase the Hate” campaign by getting stickers, wearing wristbands, putting pins on their backpacks and posting “Hate has no home here” signs in classrooms, offices, or their front yards. Students can stop by Mr. Thomas’ classroom (room 166) for a “Hate Has No Home Here yard” sign for $5 or a “Hate Has No Home Here” sticker for free.

Most importantly to Mr. Thomas, people can show their support by standing up against discrimination or hate of any kind because that is ultimately what the movement entails. “When you see [hate] or experience it, stand up for what you know is right and have conversations with other people, be in dialogue so that way we can promote understanding versus closing down, shutting down and stopping the conversation.”

Another significant clarification Mr. Thomas made is that “Erase the Hate” is not political. He stated that the movement transcends politics to support the idea that hate does not belong anywhere — not in school, the workplace or daily life.

“Hate has no home here, erase hate — all of it’s the same. It all has the same purpose,” Mr. Thomas earnestly stated. “It’s [about how we] can gain momentum towards a more accepting, inclusive and aware culture at our school.”