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4,000 runners participate in Evanston’s Ricky Byrdsong Race Against Hate

4,000 runners participate in Evanston’s Ricky Byrdsong Race Against Hate

At 7:30 a.m. on Father’s Day in Evanston, more than 4,000 runners took their places at the starting gate along Sheridan Road adjacent to Long Field for a light-hearted start to the 25th annual Ricky Byrdsong Memorial Race Against Hate.

The Ricky Byrdsong Memorial Race Against Hate has become the largest social just run/walk event of its kind in the country, bringing together thousands of people from across Chicagoland to run and walk in unity against racial hatred and violence.  (Gina Grillo/Pioneer Press)
The Ricky Byrdsong Memorial Race Against Hate has become the largest social just run/walk event of its kind in the country, bringing together thousands of people from across Chicagoland to run and walk in unity against racial hatred and violence. (Gina Grillo/Pioneer Press)

This 10K/5K/Run/Walk has become the largest social just run/walk event of its kind in the country, bringing together thousands of people from across Chicagoland to run and walk in unity against racial hatred and violence.

Vice President of Marketing and Communications for the YWCA Evanston Northshore Erin Venable says the YWCA partnered with Ricky Byrdsong’s widow, Sherialyn Byrdsong, for this event that has grown beyond Evanston into a Chicagoland event.

“The event is as important to our community today as it was when it began in 2000,” Venable said. “It has become a way for us to honor Ricky Byrdsong’s legacy and make a difference by contributing to the work of violence prevention and racial equity.”

Sherialyn Byrdsong attends the 25th annual Ricky Byrdsong Memorial Race Against Hate in Evanston.  (Gina Grillo/Pioneer Press)
Sherialyn Byrdsong attends the 25th annual Ricky Byrdsong Memorial Race Against Hate in Evanston. (Gina Grillo/Pioneer Press)

According to the YWCA website, the Race Against Hate honors the legacy of Ricky Byrdsong – former Northwestern University Basketball Coach, Vice President of Affairs at Aon Corporation and Skokie resident, who was murdered by a white supremacist in 1999 while traveling with two of them walked his neighborhood. his young children. The same day, the gunman wounded six Orthodox Jews in Rogers Park. The following weekend, he murdered a Korean-American student in Indiana and wounded an African-American pastor in Decatur before killing himself.

Venable says of that tragedy that Sherialyn Byrdsong gathered with family and friends for a walk every evening that summer. That ritual sparked conversations about what an official walking event could look like.

Although smaller group walks initially took place, in 2007 Sherialyn Byrdsong entrusted the event partnership to the YWCA Evanston Northshore.

Members of the Oak Park Running Club participated in the 25th annual Ricky Byrdsong Memorial Race Against Hate.  (Gina Grillo/Pioneer Press)
Members of the Oak Park Running Club participated in the 25th annual Ricky Byrdsong Memorial Race Against Hate. (Gina Grillo/Pioneer Press)

According to Venable, this year’s race will raise more than $40,000 and all proceeds will benefit YWCA Evanston/North Shore’s racial justice and violence prevention programs.

This YWCA funding helps children in local schools and youth organizations challenge their own biases and promote violence-free relationships among their peers; supports teens in exploring their relationships and practicing constructive ways of dealing with conflict; and encourages adults to engage in constructive dialogue, interactive activities, and meaningful action regarding violence prevention and racial justice.

Evanstonian Bryant Greening was welcomed by his family at the end of the race with festive signs for Father's Day.  8-year-old Mia Greening, 4-year-old Jordan Greening and wife Kelly Greening celebrate Bryant as he races to the finish line in the Ricky Byrdsong Memorial Race Against Hate.  (Gina Grillo/Pioneer Press)
Evanstonian Bryant Greening was welcomed by his family at the end of the race with festive signs for Father’s Day. 8-year-old Mia Greening, 4-year-old Jordan Greening and wife Kelly Greening celebrate Bryant as he races to the finish line in the Ricky Byrdsong Memorial Race Against Hate. (Gina Grillo/Pioneer Press)

During a post-race awards ceremony, the race winners were honored with remarks from Sherialyn Brydsong, family and former Northwestern Basketball starter Bill McKinney.

Awards were presented to race winners including Aaron King for his 5K time of 16 minutes and 10 seconds, Kristin Dailey with a time of 17 minutes and 29 seconds and William Haag who completed the 10K in 32 minutes and 37 seconds.

During the race, Sherialyn Byrdsong said that when her husband was murdered 25 years ago, people across the country were shocked.

“Today, gun violence and hate crimes continue to rise. Our hope is that this race reminds people that we can have different ideologies and still be called to seek higher,” Byrdsong said. “In the words of Martin Luther King from his 1963 speech, ‘we must learn to live together as brothers, otherwise we will form parishes together like fools.’”

Nine-year-old Evanston residents Maya Breitbach, Tilly Levey, Charlie Krouse and Sadie Krouse participated in this year's Ricky Byrdsong Memorial Race Against Hate for the first time.  (Gina Grillo/Pioneer Press)
Nine-year-old Evanston residents Maya Breitbach, Tilly Levey, Charlie Krouse and Sadie Krouse participated in this year’s Ricky Byrdsong Memorial Race Against Hate for the first time. (Gina Grillo/Pioneer Press)

Byrdsong said that after 25 years of racing, it is memorable to look around and see the crowd.

“One thing is for sure: this is a community that knows how to unite,” she said.

Gina Grillo is a freelance reporter at Pioneer Press.