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SAN DIEGO -- To commemorate the 13th anniversary of the death of Matthew Shepard, a local organization will host the fourth annual "San Diego Remembers Matthew Shepard" candlelit march and rally, on Tuesday, Oct. 11 starting at 7 pm.
San Diego Remembers is organizing the candlelight vigil, immediately followed by an empowerment ceremony at The Center. The post-vigil festivities will include music, food, community information tables, and a brief program featuring Fernanda Rocha, who made history as the first lesbian castmember on the Bravo hit reality series, "The Real Housewives of the O.C."
On Oct. 6, 1998, Shepard, a gay college student in Wyoming, accepted a ride home from two men at a bar who tortured and murdered Shepard, leaving him to die, tied to a fence in a remote, rural area. Shepard was found several hours later and died Oct. 12, 1998.
Witnesses in the trial testified that Shepard’s attackers, Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson, targeted him because of his sexual orientation.
At the time, Shepard’s murder sent shockwaves throughout the world, being one of the most severe cases of anti-LGBT hate violence in recent history.
Members of the San Diego Remembers group say that they organize the annual event to keep Shepard’s legacy alive and to remind community members that hate still exists and must be addressed.
"I meet people all the time who tell me that they do not know who Matthew Shepard is and that concerns me,” said Ben Cartwright, one of the event’s organizers and also a Staff Writer at SDGLN. "It is important that Shepard’s life is remembered, so that we can continue to fight to make sure this doesn’t happen again.”
Local activist Ricky Cervantes, who co-founded the event with Cartwright, said that while honoring Shepard’s memory, San Diego Remembers also hopes to empower community members to get involved in the fight against hate by providing the resources to do so.
“This year’s event will not be solemn as it has been in past years,” said Cervantes. “We have structured it as a celebration, complete with music and food. We will encourage partcipants to get involved and have community groups set up with tables, so that people can get more information about what they can do individually to make change in our communities.”
Rocha, a Brazilian-born fitness enthusiast, business woman, LGBT rights activist, and reality television star, will travel from Orange County to take part in the event and speak to the group. Event organizers say that Rocha will speak about her life, coming out, and the struggles we all face every day.
Popular local deejay John Joseph will perform throughout the night and light appetizers will be provided by The Range.
Participants should gather at 7 pm near the Village Hillcrest Plaza on 5th Ave. at University Ave. The procession will reach The Center, located at 3909 Centre St., around 8 pm, with the program to follow.
Candles and purple ribbons will be provided, however those who attend are encouraged to bring their own candles and ribbons to help defray costs.
For more information, click HERE.
Left photo: Fernanda Rocha's NO H8 campaign photo. Credit: Adam Bouska.
Images from the 2010 San Diego Remembers Matthew Shepard event: