Marcelo Lucero Remembering 9 years later

November 8, 2017 will mark the ninth anniversary of the tragic death of Marcelo Lucero, an Ecuadorian immigrant who was racially targeted by a group of seven boys and stabbed to death on a Patchogue street. His murder shocked Long Islanders, attracted national press coverage and refocused community attention on the horror and tragedy of hate crimes. It highlighted, like few events before, the need for policy reform and radical environmental/cultural change.

An investigation that followed the murder revealed that the Suffolk County Police Department had failed to fully investigate previous attacks by teens targeting Latino immigrants in the town of Patchogue. A pattern of real
anti-immigrant discrimination and intimidation was missed.

But discrimination in the town of Patchogue was only part of the issue. It was clear that Suffolk County, as a whole, had serious discrimination problems.
During the past few decades, the County has experienced a large influx of undocumented Latino immigrants. A number of locals have responded with violence and hostility.

Nine years ago, just before Marcelo Lucero’s murder, the climate for Latino immigrants in a number of Suffolk County neighborhoods was tense, at best, and often dangerously hostile. Many in the Latino community reported that police turned a blind eye to violence or persuaded victims not to press charges. This was especially the case when adolescents were the ones perpetrating the hate-related violence.

More than nine years have passed since the death of Marcelo Lucero. It’s important to examine how the community has responded and what has changed.
There have been a number of positive changes since 2008:

1. Suffolk County Police

The Suffolk County Police Department made some changes immediately after Marcelo Lucero’s death and committed itself to additional changes in a December 2013 agreement with the U.S. Justice Department.

Some of the key requirements of the 2013 agreement are as follows:

  • All complaints of discriminatory policing must be forwarded to the Department’s Internal Affairs Office.
    A full investigation must be initiated within 48 hours of the reported incident.
  • All reports alleging discrimination must be reported to the Justice Department every six months, along with self-assessments. Police officers must provide annual reports, accompanied by an analysis of traffic stops and hate crime trends. The Justice Department will have full, unrestricted access to the county staff, facilities and documents.
  • All police officers must participate in periodic trainings which focus on cultural sensitivity, hate crimes, and best practices for bias free policing.
  • All information/complaint forms must be available in multiple languages, including Spanish. In addition, bilingual phone operators must be available.
  • Each police precinct must have a bilingual community liaison. Outreach to the Latino community by high ranking officers must be improved.

2. The Federal Government

  • At least once a year, the Federal Government will monitor SCPD compliance with hate/bias crime investigations.

3. The Patchogue/Medford Community

  • In the aftermath of the murder, local religious congregations joined forces to address the fear and anxiety in the community.
  • Mayor Paul Pontieri met immediately with all segments of the community to try to heal wounds, assure public safety and chart a path forward.
  • The Mayor provided safe forums for members of the Latino community to express their fears and concerns.
  • The Mayor contacted BiasHELP to facilitate community workshops aimed at reducing and healing tensions and community divisions.

4. BiasHELP (In 2013)

  • Created the A VOICE Project (Against Violence In Communities Everywhere)
  • Created and developed the A VOICE coalition involving community leaders, clergy, school administrators, community members, students, parents and businesses, etc.
  • Hosted community events
  • Facilitated workshops in the community with schools, community based organizations, religious congregations, medical facilities, etc.
  • Facilitated Family Voices, providing a safe environment where families could support each other and heal
  • Introduced the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program to the Patchogue/Medford School District
  • Participated in community events, i.e. Live After Five and Play for Peace
  • The Knapp Swezey Foundation, which supported all of the above initiatives with a generous multiyear grant, joined BiasHELP and the whole community of Patchogue/Medford in fostering a vision of a revitalized, diverse community

5. Lucero de America Foundation

  • Community members, businesses, professionals, etc. established a foundation to assist Latinos to get involved in community activities through educational workshops

6. PBS

  • Not In My Town – Light in the Darkness, a documentary produced by The Working Group

Coming Out in the NFL: The Story of Michael Sam

Michael Sam, Defensive End for the St. Louis Rams, was born on Jan 7, 1990 in Galveston, Texas. His story begins in Texas, playing Defensive End and Offensive Tackle for Hitchcock High School. After a highly successful four years and scholarship offers from numerous high profile universities throughout the country, this All-American chose to make the University of Missouri his home for the next four years of his career. Michael Sam continued his impressive run from 2009-2013 accumulating numerous honors and an impressive record. In August of 2013, prior to his graduation from the University of Missouri, Michael Sam courageously came out as gay to his fellow teammates. In the 2014 NFL Draft, as a 7th Round Draft pick for the St. Louis Rams, Michael Sam overcame a long up and down ordeal, to become the first openly gay football player ever drafted into the NFL.

It’s possible that the most revolutionary moment in Michael Sam’s courageous journey toward a position with the St. Louis Rams football team was ‘The Kiss.’ When he was finally chosen as a rookie Defensive End, he instinctively kissed his boyfriend, Vito Cammisano – cameras rolling and the international media watching. It was a tender, moving gesture and completely in keeping with the moment. It would have been nothing special if Michael were kissing a girlfriend – but he wasn’t – and that’s why it was a revolutionary moment.

Michael Sam’s decision to come out shortly after finishing an illustrious college football career at the University of Missouri (All-American, Southeastern Conference Player of the Year) was startling and brave. The decision by the Ram’s organization to recognize his talent and draft him was also a breakthrough. But the spontaneous kiss when he heard the news was the real revolutionary moment.

The kiss meant Michael Sam was a real person with a life and feelings, not just an abstract symbol of gay progress. The semi-shocked press reaction and the turmoil on Twitter were indicators that this country might be ready for the idea of an out gay football player, but not quite prepared for the reality of a full bodied flesh and blood person moving about on the football stage.

Good for Michael Sam. He shoved the story in the right direction. We don’t need an abstract symbol of liberation. We need actual people. Haters have an easier time attacking abstractions. Real living people with partners and families and struggles and laughter and tears are harder to trash and marginalize.

It remains to be seen how far Michael Sam’s career will go or how accepting the NFL will ultimately be, but what Michael Sam accomplished this year was enormously important. He moved the gay liberation narrative forward. He moved it into the heart of football culture.

The culture of football is vitally important because it’s the place where many Americans forge their identities, their notions of success and their sense of what’s permissible and what’s not. To change football is, in many ways, to change America.

This is a lot to put on football – a dangerous sport run as a ruthless business. It’s facing enormous challenges at the moment: racism, locker room bullying, the ongoing tragedy of head injuries. But if football can evolve – become more accepting of diversity, draw the proper locker room boundaries for behavior – perhaps America can also evolve.

This story was originally published in the Summer 2014 Edition of Community Voices, a Biashelp magazine.

Part of the Solution to Ending Bullying on Long Island

The 2010 Ethics of American Youth Survey, conducted by the Josephson Institute of Ethics, surveyed 43,321 teens ages 15 to 18, from 78 public and 22 private schools. The study found that 50% of students said they had “bullied, teased or taunted someone at least once,” and 47% had been “bullied, teased or taunted in a way that seriously upset me at least once.”

LINCS/BiasHELP, the Long Island Network of Community Services and its affiliate organization, BiasHELP, Inc. are deeply concerned about the impact of bullying on children as well as the impact bullying has on the school as a whole. We believe that an action is considered as bullying behavior when someone repeatedly and on purpose says or does mean or hurtful things to another person who has a hard time defending himself or herself. Bullying can seriously affect the emotional, physical, and academic well-being of children who are bullied and contribute to a negative school climate.

LINCS/BiasHELP are committed to reducing the incidences of bullying in Long Island schools and communities. After doing extensive research we have identified the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program as the foremost bullying prevention program available. It is a whole school program that has been proven to prevent or reduce bulling throughout a school setting.

In addition, the Olweus Bulling Prevention Program has received recognition from a number of organizations including: Blueprints Model Program, Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence, University of Colorado at Boulder; Model Program, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services; Effective Program, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, U.S. Department of Justice; and Level 2 Program, U.S. Department of Education.

Anti-Bullying Logo Contest

The Long Island Network of Community Services, Inc. (LINCS) and BiasHELP, Inc. are launching an anti-bullying awareness and fundraising initiative, the Anti-bullying Logo Contest. This contest is open to all Nassau and Suffolk County youth ages 11-18 who are interested in using their creativity to help make a difference in the Long Island community.

Bullying is defined as an individual hurting or scaring someone physically, emotionally, or psychologically, on purpose and repeatedly. Bullying can take the form of pushing, punching, spreading rumors, excluding an individual from a group, or cyberbullying. Cyberbullying is when an individual bullies another individual using electronic methods such as texting, instant messaging, or using a social network such as Facebook, Myspace, or Twitter. Recent research shows that the effects of bullying can cause depression, anxiety and low self-esteem among those who are bullied and are bullies.

BiasHELP’s mission statement includes combating bullying, cyberbullying and internet violence. Through this initiative, we are seeking a logo to illustrate our anti-bullying message. This logo will be used on our website, literature and promotional materials, and will be seen throughout Long Island. All logo’s are to be submitted with the registration form and $10.00 registration fee by October 29, 2010 to LINCS: 60 Adams Avenue, Suite 101 Hauppauge, NY 11788.

BiasHELP Applauds the Overturning of California’s Same-Sex Marriage Ban

BiasHELP, Inc. is a not-for-profit agency dedicated to the prevention of bias crimes, hate-related harassment, bullying, cyber-bullying and discrimination. BiasHELP applauds Chief U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker for his ruling that overturned California’s same-sex marriage ban on Wednesday, August 4, 2010. This ruling was made in a lawsuit filed by two gay couples who claimed the voter-approved ban, Proposition 8, violated their civil rights.

Proposition 8 was passed in November of 2008, five months after the state Supreme Court legalized gay marriage in California. Supporters argued the ban was necessary to safeguard the traditional understanding of marriage and to encourage responsible childbearing.

Currently, same-sex couples can only legally wed in Massachusetts, Iowa, Washington, D.C., Connecticut, Vermont, and New Hampshire. Dr. Gail Barouh, BiasHELP’s CEO/Managing Director, “hopes that these verdicts will set the stage for a United States Supreme Court ruling on whether bans on same-sex marriage are infringing on the civil rights of a minority group and would, therefore be, unconstitutional.”

For more information on BiasHELP’s programming and efforts, please visit the website at www.BiasHELP.org or call our toll free number at 877-END-BIAS (363-2427).