NIOT Community Photo - KULR-8 Television, Billings, MT

NIOT Community Photo

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BILLINGS -

Billings community members gathered at Pioneer Park to kick off Martin Luther King, Jr. Day celebrations with a photo.

Signing up and then arranging themselves for a photo, community members spelled "I am Billings" for Not In Our Town's annual community photo.

November 2013 marked Not In Our Town's 20th Anniversary.

"We moved here 20 years ago in August," said Linda Wetzel, a Billings resident. "I did. And I remember all the incidents that took place to form this and I took great pride in the fact that our community stepped up."

In 1993, a series of hate crimes hit Billings and community members came together to form NIOT Billings, an organization aimed to fight hate.

"We have decided this is the best way to kick off the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, which is simply our community coming together, no matter what your race your color, your sexual orientation, your religion," said Eran Thompson, NIOT Billings chair. "We all just come together to take a picture to say we are Dr. King's idea of a beloved community."

Some say there is still room for improvement.

"I would love to see more participation and growth and knowledge of our traditional ways and our culture ways," Wetzel said.

"This is really about moving forward now," Thompson said. "Where do we go in the next 20 years? And so seeing our community come together after you know, what was a relatively tough year, with some bad press coming out of Billings, Montana. This right here today is the spirit of Billings, Montana."

On MLKJ Day, Not In Our Town has several events, starting with a bell ringing ceremony at MSU Billings at 9:15 AM.