More than 5,400 runners and walkers participated in the YWCA Evanston/North Shore’s 16th annual Ricky Byrdsong Memorial Race Against Hate on Sunday, June 21. Participants came to the event from 22 states and 80 Illinois towns and cities.
“With this Race, we have found a silver lining in the dark cloud of hate that took my husband’s life when he was only 43 years old,” said Sherialyn Byrdsong, Ricky’s widow. “(But) as the horrific hate crime that took place in Charleston, SC last week reminds us, hate still has a home in too many hearts. We must never cease to communicate our message that no matter what color we are on the outside, no matter what our native tongue is, the fact that all of our blood is red proves that what is the very essence of life, we have in common.”
“Your presence here, today, in record numbers, sends a powerful message about our collective commitment to work together to eliminate racism, hate, and violence in our communities and make them a better and more equitable place for all,” remarked Karen Singer, YWCA Evanston/North Shore President and CEO. “And in light of the horrific tragedy that has occurred in Charleston, and the countless other daily racial injustices occurring throughout our country, we thank you for joining with us to make that commitment.”
This year’s race gave community members a chance to come together over the events in Charleston. Dozens of people wrote messages to send to the Charleston YWCA to share with the Charleston community, and participants signed a banner calling for social justice which now hangs in front of the YWCA.
Sherialyn Byrdsong, who was joined by her family on stage after the Race, concluded her remarks with a call for action. “I challenge each and every one of you to identify one thing, besides participating in this Race Against Hate, that you can do to make our nation a safer place to live for ALL Americans. Someone’s life may depend on it.”
Proceeds from the Race go directly towards the YWCA’s racial justice work in communities and violence prevention programming in schools throughout the North Shore. Learn more at www.ywca.org/evanston.