On Sunday, June 22, 2008, I (Robert Kreisman) gathered with thousands of people to fight against hate in all forms. The 9th annual Race Against Hate is a race in memory of Ricky Byrdsong, a former Northwestern University basketball coach. The 5k course loops along Northwestern University’s campus and Evanston’s lakefront, starting and finishing on Long Field.
Early Sunday, the skies darkened and it rained briefly, delaying the start of the race for 30 minutes. But the rain did not dampen the spirits of those gathered for this annual event. I loved the juxtaposition of adults sweating through the 5k lakefront course and finishing to be rewarded with the sight of kids poised at the start line waiting for their opportunity to show their stuff in the follow up kids’ race. (See the photo below showing the start of the kids’ race.)
We enjoyed seeing neighbors and friends who both participated and rooted for those who ran or walked. It was an invigorating experience, without losing the connection of the root of the event, the tragic and senseless murder of an innocent man, Ricky Birdsong, because of the color of his skin.
In 1999 Byrdsong was murdered while walking with his two youngest children through his neighborhood when a white supremacist peppered them with bullets. Byrdsong was hit in the back and died within hours.
The mission of The Ricky Byrdsong Foundation was to arrest the growing epidemic of hate and violence by and against youth, to build character in their lives and help them find a sense of purpose. The Race Against Hate unites people of different racial, religious and ethnic backgrounds to celebrate diversity, promote reconciliation and declare that racism is not welcome or tolerated ANYWHERE in America. – Sherialyn Birdsong
The Ricky Byrdsong Foundation was dissolved in 2006, but its work is carried on through the YWCA Evanston/North Shore’s racial justice programming. This program carries on to erase divisions between peoples of varying backgrounds, color, religions, ethnicities and gender.
Bob Kreisman is a member of Chicago’s Kreisman Law Offices, located at 55 West Monroe Street, Suite 3720, Chicago, IL 60603-5011. He can be contacted at 312-346-0045; 800-583-8002; firstname.lastname@example.org. www.robertkreisman.com
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