Ten years ago yesterday, I was in a hotel in Albuquerque, NM -- helping to facilitate an HIV/AIDS prevention and education training for a Latina organization -- when heard about Matthew Shepard. I was brushing my teeth while listening to the morning news on television. (I still watched TV news back then.) At some point during the report about Shepard, I came out of the bathroom and sat down on the bed. I may have still had my toothbrush in my mouth. I know I was only half dressed, and had to hurry to finish dressing and get downstairs for the training.
It was an hour before I could speak to anyone, and even then I could only manage to tell them what I'd seen on the news. I kept running back up to my room to catch the news during breaks. At some point my update was that Matthew had died. Later, I flew back to D.C., and the first thing I did was to go to a huge rally at the Capitol, where I met up with some of my friends who were also trying to get their brains around what happened.
The response to Shepard's death was huge. But, like Cathy wrote, a lot has happened since then. A lot of people have been targets and victims of hate crimes.
The short answer is all about who Matt was and who we are as a community.He was white, educated and in many ways the archetype of the "good gay." Was this really the truth? I watched Judy Shepard speak at American University last night, as always a powerful voice for diversity and, as always, she kept it real. Matt was not perfect, he was a beloved child, but flawed like all of us. His family loved him and misses him horribly. Their ability to turn grief to action humbles me every day in my work with the Matthew Shepard Foundation.
So today, instead of another re-telling of a story we are all too familiar with, I ask you to google a couple of names: J.R. Warren and Sakia Gunn. I also worked to get the media - and the community - to pay attention to these brutal hate crimes, without nearly as much success. Read their stories, see who they were. Do the math. Ask yourself why the thousands who hit the streets for Matthew Shepard in new York City could not take the PATH train to Newark for Sakia. Why was I one of a bare handful of white folks are her funeral? Why indeed.
That's part of the reason I started the LGBT Hate Crimes Project; to tell those stories that we aren't too familiar with. There are lots of them. Too many in fact, to the point that it's impossible to tell them all.
For more than a year now, I've been researching and re-telling the ones that I can. In a previous post, I included a timeline of LGBT hate crimes, based on the cases I've researched. In the spirit of remembering Matthew's death, and in the spirit of Cathy's post about remember all the others whose names and stories are not as familiar, I'm re-posting the timeline.
I've also been playing around with Splashcast for a while now, and decided to create a "channel" consisting of the videos I've gathered on some of these stories.