In the name of kindness, inclusivity and love

A new island group seeks to unite and address our safety together.

History has taught us, right here on Vashon, what silence brings.

During World War II, our Japanese neighbors were forced to assemble at a local park and then were moved to concentration camps at gunpoint. Some of their homes were burned by arsonists. Lives were ruined.

After a decade-long campaign led by Japanese Americans, President Ronald Reagan in 1988 signed the Civil Liberties Act, which apologized for the forced incarceration and paid $20,000 to each surviving victim. While this was honorable, it did not undo the damage, nor the trauma caused.

In May of this year, I attended the Day of Exile, held at Ober Park, and listened as people of Japanese ancestry spoke about the impact — and generational trauma — that those horrific events imparted on their lives and the lives of their ancestors. They shared their lived experience of discrimination and their hopes for tomorrow.

As an educator, I know that history matters and can teach us what to do when our neighbors are harmed. History has taught us that silence is never the answer.

Our beautiful town has a recent history of standing up for what is right in response to hate. When the Vashon Havurah was defaced in 2008, our community responded. In 2021, when anti-Black, white supremacist graffiti was discovered in the Village Green, hundreds of islanders signed a letter that was published in The Beachcomber calling for “solidarity and racial justice.”

When our neighbors are threatened and harmed, we take non-violent action. I am proud to live in a place where we act when harm is done. But our work is not finished.

Islanders were recently shaken in June by the posting of two anti-2SLGBTQIA+ videos, which included photos of islander’s private homes overlaid with hate speech, as reported in last week’s edition of The Beachcomber. (Another video, posted by the same islander, warns of Latino people and Muslims demographically replacing white people in the U.S., rhetoric which is often used to justify oppressing or attacking those people.)

An apology was issued for the two videos about Pride Month, and that apology is appreciated. Nevertheless, this event has caused a great deal of trauma and fear for many of our neighbors. It has shaken the feeling of safety that many here have enjoyed.

During recent meetings, we listened as 46 of those impacted shared feelings of fear, sadness, anger and disgust resulting from the hateful words and images shared about members of our beloved town.

We all wish to live on a safe island — this rock that we call home.

So in response, we are choosing a proactive long-term approach based on a program birthed in Montana thirty years ago in response to anti-Semitic and anti-Indigenous hate. That program is called Not In Our Town, and it has been adopted by hundreds of townships across the United States.

Our local movement, Not On Our Island (NOOI), is modeled after Not In Our Town and was born in response to this most recent example of violent speech. This program is for everyone on Vashon who values inclusivity, equality and freedom from hate.

The community response has been overwhelming, swift and meaningful. NOOI has received over a hundred messages of support and allyship.

“Not On Our Island has given Vashon residents like me an inspiring model for addressing the growing threat of hate around us,” islander Julie Brown said. “I am impressed and energized by this group’s informed and elegant response to recent incidents targeting the island’s Pride celebration and our trans neighbors, friends, and family members. Thank you for showing us a way to step up and become involved, and for exemplifying all that’s beautiful about the human family. I’m so very glad you’re here.”

We have learned from history and we choose to move forward: to focus on what we do want here, which is a safe place for all to live in peace. That’s what NOOI is all about — safety for all.

It is our sincere hope that our island community will come together to send a clear message by displaying the beautiful poster donated by our own local artist West McLean. Posters can be purchased, at cost, at Vashon Print and Design for those who missed the free copy in The Beachcomber.

Please consider placing those posters prominently in your home, your businesses, schools, CBOs and your religious organizations to show what our town does stand for: kindness, inclusivity and love — and to show that we won’t abide bullying and hate. Not here. Not On Our Island.

Jamie Wolf, MPPA is an educator who lives on Vashon Island. NOOI can be reached at