Community rallies against hate

By Sara Blair Matthews

Contributing Writer

The University and the Lewisburg community came together in support of the annual Stop the Hate: Unity Rally held on Monday. 

Students, faculty and staff gathered in front of the Elaine Langone Center at 6:30 p.m. with signs that read “Stop the Hate,” “In memory of James Byrd” and “End the Silence to Stop the Violence.” FLAG&BT and the Social Justice and Humanities Residential Colleges were among the student organizations that participated.

The Stop the Hate: Unity Rally was first held at the University in 1998.

“It started as a national movement to honor James Byrd and Matthew Shepard after their deaths in 1998,” said Tracy Shaynak, director of the Women’s Resource Center.
Byrd was an African-American man murdered by three white supremacists in Jasper, Texas. He died after he was dragged behind a pick-up truck with a heavy logging chain around his ankles. Shepard was a gay teen who was beaten, strapped to a fence and left to die. His mother, Judy Shepard, became a well-known advocate for LGBT rights, founding the Matthew Shepard Foundation to support diversity and tolerance in youth organizations. She visited the University in 2010.

According to  its website, “The Stop the Hate program reflects our commitment to provide social justice tools for combating bias and hate crimes in all its forms. Stop The Hate is dedicated to provide the necessary resources and educational training to combat hate on college campuses.”

“Stopping the hate is not about tolerating but about respecting and getting to know each other on a personal level,” said Myrna Perkins, assistant to multicultural and international student services.

Shaynak thinks this is relevant to our campus because she believes we all have ownership in this community and our collective goal is to leave the University better than we found it.

“We encourage students to hold each other accountable for what happens on a res hall, at a party and even walking down the street,” Shaynak said.

“Studies have shown that campuses that have these marches are less likely to have anti-gay retaliation,” said rally founder and professor of English Saundra Morris.

Lewisburg mayor Judy Wagner and Provost Mick Smyer were among those who gave speeches in support of the rally.

“We gather here tonight to gather the best of ourselves to be apart of something bigger,” Wagner said.

She ended by suggesting that our voices may soon be heard in Harrisburg or Washington, D.C.

Smyer spoke about the beneficial effects of doing small acts of kindness throughout our lives.

“We all rely on the kindness of strangers. We are all strangers at some time or place,” he said.

Lakeisha Meyer, assistant professor of education, discussed her background with hate crimes and violence.

“I grew up where lots of attention was paid to differences, not in a good way,” Meyer said. She encouraged the audience to live by the motto, “If I truly love men, I can’t hate you.”

The rally ended with a candle-lighting ceremony and the singing of African American Civil Rights Anthem, “We Shall Overcome.”

(Visited 68 times, 1 visits today)