Photo by Evanston Photographic Studios

More than 5,000 runners and walkers participated in the YWCA Evanston/North Shore’s 14th annual Ricky Byrdsong Memorial Race Against Hate on June 16. Racers from ages 1 to 92 represented two countries, 19 states and 119 cities and towns.

 Ricky Byrdsong, former head coach of the Northwestern University men’s basketball team, was killed in July 1999 by a white supremacist who also killed a Korean American student and wounded ten others of various ethnicities and races. Mr. Byrdson’s family and friends launched the Race Against Hate to honor his legacy and bring attention to the need to combat hatred in all its forms. For the past seven years, the YWCA Evanston/North Shore has produced the Race, with proceeds going to YWCA anti-racism and violence-prevention programming in area schools.

 “As we look around and see people from all different kinds of races, ethnic backgrounds and religions, the message is that you can take an act of hate and transform that into love.  And hopefully that’s what you experience here — the spirit of love,” said Sherialyn Byrdsong before the start of the 5K. “A father’s heart is to show love and teach his children how to love.  And what better day than Father’s Day to have an event like this that has transformed hate into love.  Thank you for being here and teaching your children about the power of love and forgiveness.”

“Your presence here [in record numbers once again] sends a powerful message that we stand together to eliminate racism, hate, and violence in our communities and make them more equitable for all,” said YWCA Evanston/North Shore CEO Karen Singer. “The Byrdsong Family has named this race in honor of Ricky—and while it has always been called the Race Against Hate, we are here not just against something, but also for something. We are here to stand together for racial equity and justice,”