San Diegans to remember Matthew Shepard slaying with candlelight march and rally tonight

SAN DIEGO -- San Diegans will commemorate the tragic 1998 death of gay college student Matthew Shepard in a candlelight procession and rally tonight in Hillcrest.

The brutal attack of Shepard, who was tortured and left to die tied to a fence in a barren field, was the result of anti-gay, hate-motivated violence.

Shepard’s murder sent waves across the nation, and continues to resonate within the GLBT communities today.

The San Diego event, which will begin at 7 p.m. with a candlelight procession along Hillcrest’s University Avenue, will be followed by a rally and remembrance ceremony at The Center, 3909 Centre St.

Participants are being asked to gather at one of two of points along University Avenue, with the two groups meeting midway along University to walk as one unified group to The Center.

Procession meeting points will be:

• Park Boulevard and University Avenue (southwest corner, under the “Egyptian” Condominium complex sign)

• Fifth and University avenues (northwest corner, under the iconic Hillcrest sign, at the Union Bank building)
Around 7:15 p.m. the two groups will process east and west along University Avenue toward each other, meeting at the John Wear Memorial Hate Crimes Plaque located on the sidewalk in front of Obelisk Shoppe, 1029 University Ave. Here, participants will be given candles and take a moment to remember all who have lost their lives because of hate.

Then, the combined groups will go to The Center for a rally and ceremony. The event will shed light on the fact that hate still exists in America.

Speakers will include:

Terry Summers, executive director of the Lambda Center Community Center in Fort Collins, Colo., at the time of Shepard’s death. In Fort Collins, which is about an hour drive from Laramie, Wyo., site of Shepard’s death, Summers was thrown into the limelight as these communities mourned, grieved and lived in fear. He knew Shepard personally, and they had many mutual friends.

Wendy Sue Biegeleisen, longtime San Diego GLBT and peace community activist. She has been actively involved in the community since she “came out” at age 16 in 1976. She has been involved in a number of movements, and has long supported anti-violence, anti-hate, HIV/AIDS and equality organizations. She will share her stories of living through hate.

Josh Scarpuzzi, SDGLN youth columnist. The 20-year-old Scarpuzzi is a new voice in San Diego’s GLBT community. Recently joining San Diego Gay & Lesbian News as a contributor, Scarpuzzi has begun sharing with readers his deeply personal stories about the difficulties he faced growing up while coming to terms with his sexuality, which led to him almost taking his own life. He will share his message of hope and inspiration.

According to co-organizer Ricky Cervantes, “in light of the recent string of GLBT youth suicides, this event hits even closer to home. Hate is alive and it leads to lost lives be it through suicide or murder. One life lost is too many and we will continue to stand up against hate until it is eradicated from our society.”

Following the event will be after-parties at various locations throughout the community. These celebratory events will raise money for the Stonewall Citizens Patrol, which will also be providing safety volunteers during the event. After-parties will be held at:

• Bourbon Street Bar & Grill, 4612 Park Blvd. in University Heights.

• Urban Mo’s Bar & Grill, 308 University Ave. in Hillcrest.

• Gossip Grill, 1440 University Ave. in Hillcrest.

The Urban Mo’s/Gossip Grill shuttle will circulate the community starting at 9:30 p.m., transporting patrons between the two venues.

Organizers are encouraging participants to wear purple and bring their own candles to help defray costs. Participants will be provided with purple ribbons to wear.

Also, the organizing committee has committed to cleaning and shining the “John Wear Hate Crimes Memorial Plaque,” which has become largely forgotten by the community. At 3 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 12, volunteers will scrub, wax and polish the brass plaque, which was installed following Wear’s 1991 murder.

For additional information, visit www.sandiegoremembers.com.

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