FISHKILL – Following a reported 17 percent increase in hate crimes across the country, the Dutchess County Human Rights Commission held its annual 100 Cups of Coffee Community Gathering, Sunday, at the Town of Fishkill Recreation Center, where Hudson Valley residents of different faiths convened to enjoy coffee and start a dialogue with one another on these issues.
Organizer Dr. Seema Rizvi addressed the increase in hate crimes when talking about the purpose of hosting this event.
“People are getting a platform and opportunity to talk about this because we have seen a rise in hate crimes,” Rizvi said. “It is an interactive session focusing on interactional changes, and hopefully people will get ideas on how to overcome hatred.”
Rev. Tyler Jones of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Poughkeepsie, a member of the steering committee for the event, offered his thoughts.
“The idea is that we get together and talk about the things that matter to us,” Jones said.
“We try to help folks find the words to talk about these issues with the understanding that if we work to understand each other, we will find a better community.”
The event was attended by several local politicians, including Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney and Fishkill Town Supervisor Robert LaColla, who each spoke about their experiences with intolerance.
Maloney, an openly gay man, related the issue of intolerance in the U.S. to his early days as a congressman, where he saw how his colleagues eventually evolved into embracing LGBTQ+ rights when they initially had not.
What the congressman took away from his experience was the power of forgiveness.
“What’s so interesting to me is that we have become very good at criticizing one another and lousy at forgiving one another,” Maloney said. “I think the LGBTQ community has done really well by letting people be heroes who used to be terrible on our issues.”
LaColla addressed his experience growing up outside of New York City among mostly minorities.
“There were playful insults passed back and forth, but there was a level of acceptance that I miss,” LaColla said. “I think we used to be able to count on society a lot more to heal these wounds, and this type of event helps us a lot to know that everyone is just a brand of human.”
The event was created after 14 similar events were held in the City of Poughkeepsie by the Dutchess County Human Rights Commission to much success. This year’s event focused specifically on the different faith groups living in the Hudson Valley.