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Hate crime summit promotes tolerance

It was hate that brought them together.

About 450 students, faculty and community members gathered in the Marshall Student Center Ballroom and Oval Theater on Wednesday for the Florida Hate Crimes Awareness Summit.

“The purpose of the summit is to raise awareness of hate crimes, how they affect the community, how they affect someone individually,” said Student Government Director of Diversity and Multicultural Awareness Frank Hernandez.

Information sessions focused on the top five causes of hate crimes in Florida: race, religion, sexual orientation, immigration and homelessness, said Associate Director of Diversity and Multicultural Awareness Skye Idehen.

“Especially homelessness because a lot of people do not realize that those who are homeless are being targeted for hate crimes, so we wanted to bring some spotlight on that as well,” Idehen said.

Florida has the third highest number of hate crimes reported in the nation and leads the country in hate crimes against homeless individuals, Hernandez said.

In the weeks leading up to the summit, a competition was held to design the logo that would be used as the symbol of the event.

“We wanted to ask students to create something that reflected peace, love or unity or a combination of those,” Hernandez said.

The winning logo was drawn by Hunter Taylor, a USF senior majoring in creative writing and advertising.

“It’s about acknowledging that there is a problem with society and working toward a positive change,” Taylor said. “I believe in the way as a society we can overcome and show each other love.”

The summit was held in honor of the 40th anniversary of the Florida Commission on Human Relations, a state agency that enforces civil rights laws, Hernandez said.

One objective of the summit was to transform feelings of hate into friendship through various community service projects, Hernandez said.

“What we hope to do in the future is formalize service projects that eliminate hate in specific topics with a non-violence approach,” Hernandez said. “These community service projects can be something as small as going around the community and painting over hate symbols.”

Hernandez said the goal is to formalize these community service projects and register them under Stampede of Service (SOS), an annual USF service event, so they will continue for years to come.

The summit was hosted by the Florida Commission on Human Relations and USF College of Education’s David C. Anchin Center, USF Office of Diversity & Equal Opportunity, Office of Multicultural Affairs and SG.

Organizations that participated included People Respecting Individual Diversity and Equality Alliance, Black Student Union, Latin American Student Association and Project Downtown, an organization that provides food and clothing to homeless in downtown Tampa.

Hernandez said SG is working with student and community organizations to help set up a series of events on hate crime awareness. He said they hope to make the summit an annual event.