Center for the Study of Hate Announces 2022 Lassman “Take Action Against Hate Awards”

Muslims for Community Action and Support founders Karen Stromgren (left) and Naghmana Sherazi.

October 06, 2022
Gonzaga University News Service

Travis McAdam, a Montana-based activist whose efforts to combat white supremacy and other forms of hate have generated regional, national and global impact, and a Spokane-based organization, Muslims for Community Action and Support (MCAS), founded by Karen Stromgren and Naghmana Sherazi, are this year’s winners of the Eva Lassman “Take Action Against Hate” Awards presented by the Gonzaga University Center for the Study of Hate.

“In contrast to rising extremism and an increased number of hate crimes in the United States, we are surrounded by examples of compassion and justice,” noted Gonzaga’s Rachelle Strawther, who chaired the awards committee. “Organizations like Muslims for Community Action and Support and individuals like Travis McAdam are beacons of hope, much like Holocaust survivor Eva Lassman, after whom these awards were named.”

McAdam, director of Combating White Nationalism and Defending Democracy for the Montana Human Rights Network in Helena, Mont., was nominated by Kenneth S. Stern, director of the Bard Center for the Study of Hate at Bard College. Stern cited McAdam’s work with the Montana Human Rights Network and its efforts against the militia movement, his analysis of the far-right Bundy network, and specifically, his online educational programs on reporting hate crimes, and working with journalists, politicians and law enforcement. McAdam has been impactful in building a community of people across the state, in local and state-wide organizations, to promote human rights.

“Travis McAdam has, for years, done some of the best and most important work combating hate in general and white supremacy in particular,” Stern wrote. “Having known Eva Lassman and having considered her a friend, I know she would have liked to have known Travis, and would, like me, have appreciated the quality and reach of his anti-hate work.”

Travis McAdam of the Montana Human Rights Network

In a letter of support, Rachel Carroll Rivas of the Southern Poverty Law Center, wrote: “Travis has educated communities on the interconnectedness between antisemitism and other forms of bigotry, helping communities to build solidarity. He has engaged, at the most foundational level, in efforts to build resilience and prevent the proliferation of hate.”

Muslims for Community Action and Support was nominated for the organizational award in recognition of MCAS’s commitment to countering Islamophobia and engaging in community outreach, most recently welcoming Afghan refugees to Spokane. Formed following an Islamophobic hate crime targeting the Bosnian Community Center, when someone sprayed a death threat on the building while the community was inside praying and breaking the Ramadan fast together, the group continues to engage and educate against Islamophobia and support one another. The group responded by welcoming the public to the center with “Muffins with Muslims,” community dinners and hosting guest speakers. MCAS has partnered effectively with a number of community groups, including Bridges Not Walls, Gonzaga Law School, Lutheran Community Services, Spokane Public Schools and the City of Spokane in their efforts.

In her nomination letter, Joan Braune shared: “I think it is important to honor MCAS’s work, which is often quiet and not flashy, not getting a lot of press. They do a lot more than most people know, and they have done it in the midst of a context of rising bigotry and danger. Their work has made all of us more safe, and especially the Muslim community in Spokane, who deserve all of our solidarity and allyship.”

Eva Lassman was a Holocaust survivor and longtime community educator. For more than five decades, Lassman stood both as witness and advocate for human dignity, respect, and perseverance in the Inland Northwest. She dedicated most of her adult life to the “personal obligation” that came with her survival of the Holocaust – giving testimony to the atrocities she witnessed and inspiring others to take action against hate. The annual awards recognize those who have followed in her footsteps and made a significant difference in their community.

Recipients of the “Take Action Against Hate” Awards will be honored at a Gala Human Rights Awards Banquet in Spokane, co-sponsored by the Spokane County Human Rights Taskforce and the City of Spokane Human Rights Commission, on November 10, 2022.

In fall 2021, leaders of the Asian Pacific Island Coalition of Spokane, Rowena Pineda and Pui-Yan Lam, were honored with the Eva Lassman “Take Action Against Hate” Awards. The organizational award recipient was the Limerick University European Centre for the Study of Hate. A full list of award recipients is available here.

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