Stop Hate 2000 Newsletter November 5, 2000

Dear Friends,

We were going to have a debate with ourselves as to whether we should send this out before or after the American presidential election. The joys of modern communication solved it for us: one of us lost his e-mail server for several days. However, it's an open question whether the election's still going.

We have a long topic this month, which responds to an increasing number of inquiries we're getting. However, we do have a few comments about the events of October, and one or two announcements.

We did learn of some further memorials to Matthew Shepard and other victims of hate and violence, however caused and for whatever reason. The passage of time does not seem to have changed the depth of feeling, but it has made the expression of them quieter and more reflective. That seems to fit the experience of most of us who suffer losses: we don't forget and we don't stop feeling, but we do learn how to incorporate that into carrying on with life, and our ongoing obligations to the living.

We had some more tragedies. The killing of Erik Toews in Tacoma seems to have continued to set off copycat killings in the Seattle area. A young man in Hurst, Texas, Cody Haines, was intercepted by a group of teens who thought he was gay. He isn't, but you see, he's a waiter. And everybody knows all waiters are gay...apparently. The news here, however is good. Cody was quite seriously injured, but he is going to make a full recovery. And, as we write, we had a dreadful case in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada a few days ago. A 14-year old boy is clinging to life after being beaten by four others of his age...we don't know the reason, and his name isn't being published. As best we can tell, he was simply a kid who began going around with a bad crowd, and there seems to have been a fight over alcohol. Fortunately, the police arrived before the fight was over. still, he was completely unrecognizable, and had to be identified by a tattoo on his ankle. Although he was at first expected to die, he may survive, although the brain damage will be extensive. Prayers for him will not go amiss.

We have three announcements to make. December 1 is Matthew's birthday. For the past two years, Eric Williams has sent a cybernetic birthday card to his family on that date. You can sign it by going through:

http://www.goodnet.com/~ewillia/index.shtml

While you're there, have a look at his page regarding Mike Batey, and see what you think.

We have previously mentioned "The Laramie Project", which is about Laramie and its reactions to Matthew's death. It has closed in New York now, but the University of Wyoming drama society will be producing it at the University beginning (if we remember correctly) November 22. It has been getting very good reviews.

Finally, we have learned that MTV is producing a television movie about Matthew and his life, which is to be telecast on January 6 or 7. If we learn more about it, we'll pass it on...before it actually runs, we hope!

We have received several inquiries about the site, and how it came to be. So it seems right that we talk about this now.

This site, and "Matthew's Place", the site now owned by Judy Shepard, were originally one and the same. This original site was started by Lee Thompson of Gold Bar, Washington, in October, 1998, as one of the many set up in the immediate aftermath of Matthew Shepard's death. Two of the group, Monie Gebhart and David Lehning, became associated with Lee at an early stage. In the period which followed, Monie began to work on the Memorial Quilt, and Lee began making Christmas tree ornaments dedicated to all sorts of people who had similarly suffered. The one he made in Matthew's memory caught Mrs. Shepard's attention, and they began to make contact with each other. This culminated in an art show in Seattle in December, 1998, where a number of quilt squares and ornaments were publicly displayed with considerable success.

Those of us who became involved later (Gary was first, then Mark, and finally John) think lee's efforts made an impact because he was one of the few who did not see Matthew's death as simply a gay rights issue, but part of a much broader failing in society. this was not to underplay the one part of it. But the same attitudes which killed Matthew kill a lot of others for a lot of reasons. That helps explain our early and continued interest in the Charlotte Wetzel Foundation: children often are the very first to be the victims.

At the end of 1998, Lee had the idea of undertaking a hike which would, he hoped, raise awareness of the general problems of hate and violence in our society, and also raise funds for several other foundations which were working towards their elimination. At that time, he turned the "Matthew's Place" site over to Mrs. Shepard, which has since taken on its own direction, and began a second which would work to promote and support the hike. He also intended to end it with a benefit concert given by artists whom Matthew admired.

Lee himself suffers from a serious illness, and he also completely exhausted himself in trying to organize all this. The two were directly related: he has had to do everything in his life by himself, and hadn't any experience in handling anything which required large numbers of people. He collapsed. He has been prepared to talk about it in a third site he maintained for some time, which may still be in operation. It's

http://www.virtualapology.com

However, his efforts were not without effect. Sir Elton John gave a benefit concert in Laramie for the Matthew Shepard Foundation, which was a very great success, which indirectly resulted from lee's efforts. And Jerry Switzer led a "Hike for Hope" from Fort Collins to Laramie in October, 1999, which demonstrated that the original concept had been based on sound ideas. Lee carried out a private one of his own, hiking 21 miles out of Casper, and then 21 miles into Laramie, to commemorate each of Matthew's years in this world. Finally, and just as important, Margot Wetzel carried a hike out in the Seattle area in memory of Charlotte, which was also very successful.

However, this left the question of the website. From June, 1999 onwards, it was clear that Lee's recovery depended on his remaining away from computers, and this, of course, meant he could no longer keep the website going. The group of us, as well as Barb Byars, thought there had been a network of supporters who would still wish to be informed about these issues, and who would be hard to put together if the site went out of existence. Additionally, it had always meant to serve an educational function as well, although that had necessarily been left alone. So our collective decided to keep it going, to serve as a clearing house for information, and then to see if there were things we could support.

At first, there were the hikes which did occur, and the site did help both in several ways. We've tried to developed a system of links, including the many memorial pages which others were good to give us. We revived and completed the Memorial Quilt project (at least its first stage). And we thought we'd see if we could keep up a monthly newsletter.

We're still feeling our way around. We've been enormously helped by all of you who've given us ideas, passed along news, and given us feedback. We hope all this is doing some good in this world of ours, but recognize that you who come and visit us are the ones who can judge that best.

The Stop Hate 2000 e-Team

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