Mass shooting preludes Ricky Byrdsong Memorial Race against Hate for second straight year

Khadrice Rollins, Summer Editor

For the 17th annual Ricky Byrdsong Memorial Race Against Hate, a number of participants told organizers they had registered in light of recent events, race director Trimmy Stamell said.

This was the second consecutive year that a mass shooting was the main focus of national headlines in the week leading up to the race, and both last year’s shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, and the recent shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, were acknowledged during this year’s event. There was also a moment of silence for the victims of the Orlando shooting before the 10K and 5K races.

“We were able to bring people together at a time where we really needed to be together, in light of what’s been going on in Orlando and with the one year anniversary of what happened in Charleston,” Stamell said. “This race has a meaning beyond just recreation, and that’s what makes it special.”

Approximately 5,200 runners and walkers from 20 states and three countries took part in the fundraising event organized by the YWCA Evanston/North Shore, which uses the proceeds to benefit the organization’s racial justice programming and violence prevention education programing, Stamell said. Throughout the morning, YWCA Evanston/North Shore CEO Karen Singer and Sherialyn Byrdsong, the widow of former Northwestern men’s basketball coach Ricky Byrdsong who the event is in honor of, spoke about the importance of accepting people even if they make look different or have different beliefs.

Ricky Byrdsong was murdered in 1999 when a 21-year-old white supremacist shot him while Byrdsong was jogging in his Skokie neighborhood.

Sherialyn Byrdsong talked about how people should recognize that they are not that different from each other at the end of the day. She reminded runners that all people bleed the same color and added that people need to start respecting human life more.

“A human life is a valuable thing,” Sherialyn Byrdsong said. “And I just think we think a human life is like a coke can, that you can just throw away. We are losing the value of a human life.”

Although the rhetoric mostly focused on speaking against hateful acts, those in attendance said the event created a safe community atmosphere.

In addition to the 10K and 5K races, there were also a half mile and mile long race specifically for children. Maxie Bolden III, 35, travelled with his family from South Bend, Indiana to take part in the event. Bolden III, who said it was his third year taking part in the race, added that he was there to run with his young son in the mile race also said he liked the environment of the event.

“It’s just generally speaking, very friendly,” Bolden III said. “I walk around with the kids, I feel comfortable. I lose my son in my sight, but I feel OK letting him go over and get stuff, talk to people. It’s nice. It’s always very welcoming.”

When the participants were not out on the course, which went down Sheridan Road and through part of NU’s campus, they were walking around Long Field, where some of the event’s sponsors had tents set up, such as Whole Foods Market, which supplied fruit to the runners and walkers.

The Father’s Day event “amazed” Sherialyn Byrdsong because of the way members of the community “continue to come out and remember what happened 17 years ago” to Ricky Byrdsong, while also pushing back against hate and the violence that can accompany it.

“No matter if what they believe or how they look is different from you, everybody is important,” Sherialyn Byrdsong said. “Like I said in my opening remarks, ‘God made all of us, and all of our blood is red.’”

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