In an effort to promote public awareness of hate crimes as well as to fight against racially-motivated and discriminatory acts, University students, family and friends endured the cold, windy evening and gathered in the Diag last night at a candlelight vigil.
The shining candles were meant to reveal not only the harsh reality that hundreds of hate crimes are still committed across the nation, especially on college campuses, but also an opportunity for students to unite together.
“There is a great need in our community for such an event. There is a lot of uncertainty about people of color and lesbians and gays,” said Jim Leija, a Music junior and chair of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Commission of the Michigan Student Assembly.
As a continuation of this year”s Martin Luther King Jr. Symposium, organizations including the LGBT Commission, the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, the Native American Student Association and the United Asian American Organizations joined to plan and sponsor the vigil with guest speakers Ismael and Deena Ileto, brother and sister-in-law of the late Joseph Ileto. Ileto, a Filipino-American postman, was murdered by a white supremacist in Los Angeles on Aug. 10, 1999.
Hate crimes are “being underreported. We need to speak up or else we will not be recognized as equals,” Ismael Ileto said.
“Hate has no boundaries and you are our future,” said Deena Ileto. “We have a lot of work to do and we need to start here.”
The focus of the many speakers from the student groups emphasized the importance of uniting to form one voice for one common goal: fighting against violent crimes, whether they are directed towards gays or lesbians, Asian-Americans or Muslims.
Ismael Ileto said it is important for students to continue fighting against hate crimes.
“There are a lot more things we can do,” Ileto said. “Write to legislators, voice our concerns, advocate the prevention of hate-related websites and offer classes on ethnic backgrounds in high school and college.”
Concluding the events of the night, University organizations including Hillel, LGBT and the United Asian American Organizations presented the Ileto family with a hate-crime quilt. A patch of the quilt was specially created by each group to show their support in this issue.
Immediately following the presentation, there was a moment of silence for all the victims of racially-motivated or discriminatory acts.
LSA senior Naomi Baum said attendance was much better than she expected. “It”s unbelievable to see such a sincere, interested group of diverse students,” said Baum, one of the speakers for the Ahara Jewish LGBT and Friends Association.
“The event was really good. Hearing speakers who have experienced (hate crimes) made it more powerful,” said Jane Kim, an LSA sophomore.
The vigil was the first at the University to focus on promoting the recognition and prevention of hate crimes, Leija said, and there is the possibility of making it an annual event.