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Hatred has to stop: compassion for others and equality for all.
More than 100 students and community members listened to Lesléa Newman share this message and the story of Matthew Shepard Monday in the Ohio Room of the Hadley Union Building.
Exactly 15 years ago to the day, Matthew Shepard, a University of Wyoming student of Laramie, Wyo., was beaten as part of a vicious hate crime that led to his subsequent death five days later.
Matthew was gay.
The Six O’Clock Series program, “He Continues to Make a Difference: The Story of Matthew Shepard,” was sponsored by both the Student Co-Op and Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgender Commission and is one that Newman has been sharing with audiences for the last 15 years.
Newman, a Jewish, lesbian writer, has written 60 books ranging in topic from eating disorders to shedding a positive light on lesbian families in her controversial children’s book “Heather Has Two Mommies.”
Newman served as the keynote speaker for Gay Awareness Week at the University of Wyoming in 1998 and arrived to campus the day that Shepard died.
She presented and spoke to the distraught campus and community and from then on vowed to work to erase hate.
Fifteen years later, her message still rings loud and true.
Newman wasted no time beginning her presentation that started with a reading of poems from her book “October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard.”
A few members of the audience closed their eyes as Newman’s rhythmic, steady and solemn voice filled the room with her brutally honest and transparent view into the hate crime that claimed Shepard’s life.
Unfortunately, Shepard’s case does not stand alone as a sole instance of anti-gay hatred that has resulted in the loss of a life.
Newman mentioned that in the last few years there have been six headline cases of kids who took their own lives due to such abuse.
Although legislation is being passed that acknowledges gay marriages, it is up to everyone to show tolerance and support of those within the LGBT community.
As Newman alluded to in her mention of these six kids, the battle for equality and acceptance is not quite over. Newman proceeded to read her essay titled “Imagine,” which details how an ideal society for members of the LGBT community would feel.
“Imagine a world that is perfectly safe. A world that is safe for you and a world that is safe for everyone… You don’t have to worry that somebody will hurt you just for being who you are.”
In closing, Newman expressed how simple it is to make a difference in the lives of those in the LGBT community and how a simple greeting or genuine caring gesture can make an impact in the lives of others.
“You can’t underestimate the power of a simple act of kindness,” she said.