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Jan 19, 2013 8:01 PM by Dustin Klemann - Q2 News

"I Am Billings" photo echos King's message

BILLINGS - Saturday's weather in Billings was no beach day in Cancun. But slight wind and chilly temperatures didn't stop more than 100 Billings residents attending the 3rd annual "I Am Billings" photo.

It's been 20 years since the organization created to stand against hate and intolerance - "Not In Our Town" - is still making the embrace of diversity in Billings a staple to a healthy community.

Eran Thompson, Chairman for Not In Our Town, said Saturday's photo was born from years ago.

"One of the iconic images of the original "not in our town" movement was this picture that the community came together to take. Everybody, whether it was a law enforcement officer in uniform or a Native American wearing a traditional outfit. We thought we really wanted to revive the idea of a community photo," he said.

That community photo, which has only been taken twice, now thrice, sheds light of the true diversity in Billings.

According to a 2010 census, nearly 90 percent of Billings' 100,000 population is white. Still, diversity remains present with .8 percent African American, 4.4 percent Native American, .7 percent Asian, and 5.2 percent Hispanic or Latino.

All in attendance Saturday represented the diversity can be seen in the Magic City.

As Debbie Brown says, this weekend's "I Am Billings" photo shows the similarities to Martin Luther King Jr.'s message.

"He wanted equal rights for everybody and people to have individuality. I think that's what "Not In Our Town does." With the photo-shoot, it shows we're diverse and we're a big part of this community," Brown said.

Thompson anticipates the annual photo op to grow, but more importantly he says, so will tolerance throughout the community.

"I think that's what it's about. You want everyone to know Billings is diverse and we're only growing more diverse. This is our attempt to build a safe community where folks feel appreciated no matter what their lifestyle choice is."

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