Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Laramie Project, Ten Years Later

Ten years ago, Matthew Shepard was murdered in Wyoming, and the hate crime opened the eyes of millions around the world to the need for vigorous hate-crimes legislation and cultural changes towards tolerance and acceptance.

An award-winning play, The Laramie Project, was produced shortly thereafter highlighting how a small Wyoming town came to terms with an anti-gay hate crime. And now, a decade later, Mois├ęs Kaufman, the artistic director of the Tectonic Theater Project returns to Laramie to see how things have changed, or stayed the same.

Credit: Ed Andrieski/Associated Press

In the New York Times article, Kaufman discusses how, despite some resistance to change, there are signs of hope:

"Laramie has changed in some ways. The city council passed a bias crimes ordinance that tracks such crimes, though it does not include penalties for them. There is an AIDS Walk now. Several residents say they came out publicly as gay, in their churches or on campus, in part to honor Mr. Shepard’s memory. The university hosts a four-day Shepard Symposium for Social Justice each spring, and there is talk of creating a degree minor in gay and lesbian studies."

And yet there are still some in the community who refuse to see Shepard's death as a hate crime. And there are some LGBT residents who are still afraid of being open in Wyoming society. Be sure to read the Times article, and reflect back on how things have changed in our own communities in the wake of awareness of hate crimes.

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