From a distance, it was a curious sight: 250 colorful T-shirts strung between tree trunks and light fixtures on the campus of Cal State Northridge on Wednesday. Up close, however, a stark, sobering message emerged from slogans written on the clothing.
"I'm sorry your Daddy killed you," read a shirt dedicated to a 15-month-old girl. "My boyfriend's father raped me, but my heart remains intact," read another.
Known as the Clothesline Project, the 5-year-old program was on display to mark a monthlong campaign throughout the San Fernando Valley to raise awareness about injustice and violence.
"We're encouraging people to understand what is at the root of racism, sexism and classism," said Jean Y. Morrison of the National Organization for Women's Valley chapter, "and that's bigotry."
Freshman Iris Gomez said she was encouraged that many of the T-shirt messages written by victims of rape, battery and molestation were hopeful. "It really gets to you," she said. "You can feel the pain the person's going through."
The monthlong campaign for unity was created in the wake of the O.J. Simpson double murder trial as a way to bring together groups fighting various forms of violence and discrimination under a common umbrella, Morrison said.
"Bigotry is the root from which all of these other isms flow," she said.
For the next six weeks, NOW will hold candlelight vigils each Wednesday evening at sites in Panorama City, Glendale, Woodland Hills and Arleta, concluding Jan. 10 with a rally and march back at CSUN.
Joe R. Hicks, executive director of the Multicultural Collaborative of Los Angeles, said that campaign organizers hope to bridge the gap between groups fighting racism and sexism, a gulf revealed in reactions to the Simpson trial.
"The two struggles are clearly interwoven," he said.