Combating Hate, A Step at a Time

The memories of hate crime victims Matthew Shepherd, James Byrd, Jr., and the students killed in the Columbine massacre came alive at Council Hall last Wednesday night.

A groundbreaking documentary film and presentation was conducted by filmmaker Brent Scarpo. Students came to hear about overcoming racism without having to resort to violence in his discussion “Journey to a Hate-Free Millennium.”

The event was hosted by Residence Life, Student Programming Board, Haraya (the Pan-African Student Coalition), Black Greek Letter Organization Council, the Panhellenic Council and InterFraternity Council.

The forum, which ran from 6:30 to 8 p.m., occurred during Islam Awareness Month and focused on combating hate with love, care and self respect. Scarpo, who is also founder of New Light Media, emphasized these points by applying them to his own life experience as a college graduate traveling to Los Angeles to pursue an acting career.

When he left home, his mother presented him with a silver thimble. “No matter what situation you find yourself in,” she told him, “take this thimble and fill it up with love, care and respect for yourself so that I won’t have to worry about you and can sleep at night.”

“Since that time I have carried this thimble to more places than we can get into tonight,” Scarpo said.

For the past year, Scarpo has presented his mother’s challenge to students in 90 colleges, about 30 to 40 middle schools and high schools and a number of conventions.

“We all know that hate exists,” Scarpo said. “I think we really need to embrace our ignorance and become knowledgeable about how to face our fears and get through them.”

“He was an excellent, excellent speaker,” said Mary Fitch, senior, sister of Delta Phi Epsilon, president of the Panhellenic Council and one of the orchestrators of the event. “He had an impact. He really got his point across.”

“I once heard somewhere that ignorance turns into fear, fear turns into anger, anger turns into hate and the only thing that hate causes is suffering,” said Scarpo.

“As you watch this documentary, I ask you to question why you have been called here, and are you part of the solution or part of the problem?”

The documentary chronicled the dragging death of African American James Byrd, Jr., in Jasper, Texas, the beating death of gay college student Matthew Shepherd in Laramie, Wyo., and the Columbine High School massacre in Littleton, Colo.

“It is my belief that those who committed these horrific crimes did so because no one taught them how to fill their thimbles. I will no longer walk this planet and allow others to take away the greatest gift that has been given to me. I will no longer allow others to have empty thimbles.”

The documentary touched many of the students who were present.

“It was really good,” said Roberto Saverto, a junior and member of Phi Beta Alpha. “It showed a side that a lot of people who live normal lives in the world today don’t realize.”

Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter Randy Driscoll, was so moved by the documentary that she wrote a song in memory of Shepherd, which Scarpo played during the presentation.

Scarpo also spoke about the Matthew Shepherd Foundation, an anti-hate coalition headed by Shepherd’s mother, Judy. Since Shepherd’s death, she has received more than 100,000 e-mails, pictures and letters from all over the world. Randy Driscoll’s commemorative CD’s were given out as gifts in return for donations to the foundation.

Scarpo said that his favorite part of the documentary was when Shepherd said, “Matthew would be very disappointed in me if I gave up.”