BY TRONE DOWD
Six individuals whose lives have been forever changed by hate crimes gathered at Queens Borough Hall on Tuesday night to discuss the effects of such incidents and current activism to prevent them.
Moderated by Dr. Simran Jeet Singh, a professor at Trinity University in San Antonio, the panel took part in an emotional discussion detailing their encounters with hate and bigotry. The keynote speakers, Judy and Dennis Shepard, kicked off the talk with the story of losing their teenage son, Matthew—who was gay—in 1998. Matthew, a college student in Wyoming at the time, was beaten, tortured and left to die. His parents have spent the last two decades advocating against the kind of violence committed against the LGBT community that took their son’s life.
Their work came to fruition in 2009 when President Barack Obama signed the Matthew Shepard Act, which expanded the definition of hate crimes on a federal level to include those motivated by a victim’s actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability.
Joselo Lucero, an Ecuadorian whose brother Marcelo was murdered in 2008 by seven white supremacist teens, was another panelist. Lucero has since dedicated his life to speaking out against bigotry and become the community outreach coordinator for the Hagedorn Foundation. Panelist Anita Nagel told her story of fleeing her home country of Vienna during the Holocaust without her parents. CAIR-NY Executive Director Afaf Nasher highlighted hate crimes committed against the Muslim community, while York College professor Andrew Jackson spoke of the black experience throughout U.S. history.
The two-hour event was organized by the office of Queens Borough President Melinda Katz and Executive Assistant District Attorney Jesse Sligh, of Queens District Attorney Richard Brown’s office.