18th annual Ricky Byrdsong Race Against Hate unifies Evanston community


Hayley Miller/The Daily Northwestern

Sponsor booths on Long Field line Sheridan Road at the 18th annual Ricky Byrdsong Memorial Race Against Hate on Sunday. The event featured 10k and 5k races as well as other activities for non-runners.

Hayley Miller, Reporter

Over 5,000 runners and walkers gathered at Long Field on Sunday morning for the Ricky Byrdsong Memorial Race Against Hate.

The event was organized by the Evanston/North Shore YWCA, which uses proceeds to benefit the organization’s racial justice and relationship violence prevention programs. The race is in honor of Ricky Byrdsong, a former Northwestern men’s basketball coach who was murdered by a white supremacist while jogging in Skokie in 1999.

Karen Singer, CEO of YWCA Evanston/North Shore, said there is a need for people to take a stand against violence.

“It’s important because we all need to come together to stand united against racism and intolerance in our community,” she said. “The race helps create awareness that we all have to get involved in some way to turn around the culture of violence in our country.”

The YWCA Evanston/North Shore has been organizing the annual Father’s Day event for the past 12 years — ever since Sherialyn Byrdsong, the widow of Ricky Byrdsong, approached Singer and asked for her assistance.

“For her to entrust that, something she and her family created from tragedy and turned that tragedy into triumph, it’s the biggest honor I could have ever received,” Singer said.

Participants could register for either the 10k or 5k race, which started along Sheridan Road and covered some of Northwestern’s campus. There were also half-mile and mile-long courses for children at the end, immediately preceding an awards ceremony.

The event had actionable items in addition to the races, including a station for signing letters to congressmen regarding “common sense” gun laws and gender and racial equality.

A chalkboard banner with “I run for…” quickly filled up with responses ranging from “all families grieving the loss of a child to police violence” to “hope.”

Ariel Logan, a member of the youth basketball program at the YWCA, has volunteered at the event for the past two years, handing out water to participants as they finish.

“People are running for a good cause and running for all the hate in the world,” Logan said.

Booths from many local sponsors lined the field, such as Starbucks and Whole Foods as well as the Rotary Club of Evanston and Evanston Running Club. T-shirts and gift bags were provided for all participants.

Evanston resident Jonathan Lustig said the race is also about unifying the immediate community. Lustig said he has been running in the 5k with his two sons on and off for the past 15 years.

“It’s a great day on Father’s Day and we run into a lot of people we haven’t seen for a while,” he said. “There’s a lot of community spirit, it unifies people for a very good cause and it’s become a tradition.”

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