After anti-Muslim note posted at grocery store, children’s peaceful, compassionate artwork now hangs there

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OAK CREEK -- Elementary school students have responded to an anti-Muslim message posted inside an Oak Creek grocery store. They are fighting hate with compassion.

FOX6 News was alerted to the note posted inside the Woodman's grocery store on December 8th.

Later, we learned Oak Creek police identified a suspect, but because this is a First Amendment issue, no charges will be filed by the Milwaukee County District Attorney's Office.

Woodman's officials took down the note, and ripped it up as soon as FOX6 News brought it to their attention.

Many who saw it said they were offended.

Note at grocery store in Oak Creek

Note at grocery store in Oak Creek

 

The note was posted inside the main entrance on a wall with community posters and advertisements, and addressed to Muslims. It said: "Dress, speak, conform to USA standards, or don`t come to the USA. Or get out."

It was signed, "The people."

Woodman's officials said they were unaware the note had been posted, and it was immediately taken down and ripped up when FOX6 News brought it to their attention.

Arno Michaelis

Arno Michaelis

 

"We`re here to counter fear and ignorance with courage and wisdom," Arno Michaelis said. "The driving force behind that sign is one of fear and is something we should have compassion for rather than aggression."

"We can`t let hate be the lasting message," Pardeep Kaleka said.

Kaleka and Michaelis became involved as members of Serve2Unite, an organization that was launched after the Sikh Temple shooting in 2012.

On August 5, 2012 40-year-old Wade Michael Page fatally shot six people and wounded four others.

Page committed suicide by shooting himself in the head after he was shot in the stomach by a responding police officer.

Page was an American white supremacist and United States Army veteran from Cudahy.

Serve2Unite

Serve2Unite

Below is Serve2Unite's mission:

In the wake of the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin shooting on August 5th, 2012, Serve 2 Unite emerged in a spirit of defiance. The hate behind the murders was met with an ongoing practice of fearless, creative, compassion. Rooted in the principles of service to others, and relentless optimism in the face of adversity, Serve 2 Unite today engages young people of all backgrounds to value humanity and the aspiration of living a genuine, honest life as a peacemaker.

Pardeep Kaleka

Pardeep Kaleka

Kaleka, Michaelis and others with Serve2Unite enlisted the help of some creative children in responding to the hateful message posted inside the Oak Creek grocery store.

"Their response is a very authentic one. It`s a very genuine expression," Michaelis said.

Yaliez Reed and his fourth-grade classmates at Hampton Elementary School created artwork to welcome Muslims.

"We made these pictures to show that everyone is allowed in stores and places," Reed said.

A collection of their artwork is now framed, and hanging inside the Woodman's store in Oak Creek.

Serve2Unite, children create artwork for Oak Creek Woodman's store

Serve2Unite, children create artwork for Oak Creek Woodman's store

"To make them feel comfortable at places they go," Reed said.

"He loves to draw. That's the way he best expresses himself is through drawing," Heidi Plonsky, Reed's mother said.

Plonsky couldn't be more proud of her nine-year-old son.

She and others hope that people can see how goodness can not only prevail over hate, but also prevent it.

Serve2Unite, children create artwork for Oak Creek Woodman's store

Serve2Unite, children create artwork for Oak Creek Woodman's store

5 comments

  • Arno Michaelis

    Our young people setting an example of compassion in defiance of fear and ignorance, replacing an anti-Islam sign with works of art to welcome our Muslim sisters and brothers to our community.

  • Liberty

    With what is going on in France and Germany do you blame anyone for being scared it could happen here too?

    • Arno Michaelis

      I don’t blame anyone for being scared. The point is we don’t have to be, and that fear is the so-called “Islamic State’s” bread and butter. When we come together as a community and accept each other, the narrative of ISIS and other violent extremists, like the white supremacist who murdered six people 1/4 mile down the road from Woodman’s on August 5th, 2012, has no purchase. After that atrocity, the Sikh community had every right and reason to be terrified of white people and to shut themselves off from the rest of the community. Instead they demonstrated the courage to truly defy hate and violence with peace and love through Serve 2 Unite. We are following that example here. Hope you can join us =)

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