Advocacy in the Wake of Hate

On June 16th 2020, The James Byrd Jr. Center to Stop Hate held the ‘Advocacy in the Wake of Hate’ webinar that included special guests Dawn and Richard Collins (parents of the late 2nd Lt. Richard Collins III), Louvon Byrd Harris (sister of the late James Byrd Jr.), and Professor Frank Wu (President of Queens College). These guests have all been directly impacted by white supremacist violence. They each shared their stories and how they have been able to advocate for a better response to hate crimes and a more inclusive society. The webinar, which was available for CLE credit for lawyer participants, went over both state and federal hate crime laws, highlighting the Shepard-Byrd Hate Crimes Prevention Act which was signed into law under President Obama in 2009. Dawn and Richard Collins discussed their pursuit in establishing the 2nd Lt. Richard Collins III Law which strengthened Maryland’s hate crime law in making sure acts of violence that are motivated by hate in ‘either whole or in substantial part’ to be considered a hate crime. They also conversed about their creation of the 2nd Lt. Richard Collins III Foundation in 2017. Louvon Byrd Harris explained the trials and tribulations of establishing both state and federal legislation dealing with hate crimes. She also talked about the Byrd Foundation which was created in 1999 as a center for racial healing and the importance of standing in solidarity to fight hate with love. Professor Frank Wu discussed how the death of Vincent Chin impacted the Asian-American community and how it sparked a protest movement to fight racism. He also discussed how the historical struggle for Black Americans has helped all minorities stand strong against racism and white supremacy. The guests concluded the webinar by giving advice to advocates during this current movement. These tips included getting to know people who look different from you and seeing the humanity in everyone along with showing people a common cause. Last, but not least, it is pertinent for this fledgling movement to go on indefinitely until substantial change has come.