Ten year ago today, Laramie Police Dept. Officer Reggie Fluty went to the scene reported by a bicycle rider - a young man tied to a fence and obviously beaten very badly. Her words in the Laramie Project - that "the only part of his face not covered in blood were where he had been crying" haunt me to this day. This was the day Matthew Shepard was found.
We have already seen much coverage in anticipation of the ten year mark of his death this Sunday, October 12. I was there. Not 48 hours after his body was found I was in Laramie helping local activists, students and Matt's friends handle the overwhelming response to the attack and his death. But that's not the point of this post. Let's talk about the others - the ones who did not get the attention they deserved.
I will try and post every day this week, as a memorial to Matt and all of the others we have lost to hate violence. In their names. After working on dozens of hate crimes in my activist career, the most common question I still get is: "why did Matt's murder get so much attention?" You want the short answer (trust me, the long answer is a presentation with powerpoint)?
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.