Posted by Jacob Britton on November 22, 2019 at 1:39 PM

Where hate ends, love grows. This week, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights organized a series of events in Washington, D.C., centered around improving the response to hate crime and memorializing those we have lost to tragic acts of hate. On Tuesday, Nov. 19, The Leadership Conference designed and installed a public art installation at Columbus Circle on Capitol Hill. The interactive mural featured dedications to Matthew Shepard, James Byrd, Jr., Khalid Jabara, and Heather Heyer, all victims of tragic hate crimes, before a wall of flowers. Passersby were invited to pick the flowers one-by-one, revealing a message as the day went on. Family members of Matthew Shepard, Khalid Jabara, and Heather Heyer visited the installation, and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law visited on behalf of the Byrd family.

Like the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr., Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009, the Khalid Jabara and Heather Heyer NO HATE Act is named after two hate crime victims and would significantly improve the federal government’s response to hate crime. Khalid Jabara and Heather Heyer were murdered exactly one year apart on August 12, 2016, and 2017, respectively. Although the incidents were prosecuted as hate crimes, neither was recorded as a hate crime in official statistics. These omissions can be attributed to the systemic, nationwide issue of underreporting in hate crime statistics. In order to address this problem, the Jabara-Heyer NO HATE Act provides law enforcement agencies with incentives for better hate crime reporting to promote a better understanding of hate crimes in our communities.

Following the art installation, on Wednesday, Nov. 20, The Leadership Conference convened an event with the families of Khalid Jabara and Matthew Shepard and the broader civil rights community, including the Arab American Institute, to discuss the issue of hate crime in this country and how to effectively respond. The event featured a remarks Vanita Gupta; president and CEO of The Leadership Conference and the Leadership Conference Education Fund; Susan Bro, mother of Heather Heyer; and Louvon Harris, sister of James Byrd, Jr. Afterward was a panel discussion with Judy and Dennis Shepard, and Haifa and Rami Jabara.

In the words of Rami Jabara, “In a world where data and metrics can be easily obtained, tracked, and analyzed, there is absolutely no excuse for the absence or underreporting of the lives impacted by hate.  Congress must pass the Jabara-Heyer NO HATE Act to address this obvious deficiency.”

 

Jacob Britton is a Fall 2019 Intern with the Arab American Institute.