Energy ‘fantastic’ for Race Against Hate

Kevin Trahan

The 13th annual Ricky Byrdsong Memorial Race Against Hate brought together about 4,000 people from the Chicagoland area Sunday to Floyd Long Field, on the corner of Sheridan Road and Lincoln Street. Participants chose from four different events – a 10K race, a 5K run/walk, a youth mile for 9-13-year-olds and a youth mile for children ages eight and under.

The event was created to commemorate the life of former Northwestern University basketball coach Ricky Byrdsong, who was killed by a white supremacist in 1999, and to combat hatred and violence.

The race was originally organized by the Ricky Byrdsong Foundation, formed after Byrdsong’s death to raise awareness and reverse the trend of violence among the youth. But after the foundation dissolved in 2006, the Young Women’s Christian Association of Evanston/North Shore took over as the host of the race.

Karen Singer, CEO of the YWCA Evanston/North Shore, said Byrdsong’s wife Sherialyn “gifted us the race to carry on the legacy of Ricky Byrdsong” seven years ago, and united the community to work towards equality.

“I think it’s evidenced by the increasing number of people who join us every year,” Singer said. “I think they’re coming out more than to run and walk. I think they care about the message of the race.”

Money raised from the race goes toward the YWCA’s racial justice program and relationship violence prevention program.

Over 40 teams raised money for the race this year, according to Singer, “and it’s everything from neighborhoods coming together to churches and hospitals and civic groups.”

The Evanston Running Club was the top fundraising team, raising $3,351 according to the Race Against Hate website. The organization has been involved with the race since its inception.

“We’ve been here longer than the race has, so when Ricky was murdered, we got behind the motion of a memorial run pretty quick,” said ERC President Alvah White. “He was pretty much a staple of the community.”

Runner Jon Davis said he was really affected by Byrdsong’s death, as he was an avid NU football fan growing up. Davis, who lived in Evanston when the murder occurred, said he experienced “the same shock that everyone else did.”

“It showed everyone that this type of hatred was still a problem that had to be addressed all throughout the country,” Davis said in an email Monday. “It brought the community together for a shared cause and continues to not only help those who were most closely affected heal, but also providing financial support to an institution which does work every day to prevent these tragedies. And personally, as a kid who grew up a Northwestern Wildcats fan, knowing the victim and living in the same area as the perpetrator made it an event I wanted to be a part of.”

White said the event has become the featured race for runners in the Evanston area each summer.

“It’s the big one that people in Evanston shoot for,” White said. “The YWCA has done a great job of getting folks behind the race, the (YWCA). We have our crew come out, we run and we have a lot of fun.”

While the race and its cause are centered around Evanston and the North Shore and many of the participants are from that area, the event also attracts runners from Chicago and other states.

“The energy for it is fantastic,” Singer said.

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