Do you remember what you were doing almost one year ago on November 8, 2008? I remember it clearly; I was watching my favorite soccer team Manchester United lose to their massive rival, Arsenal, after giving up two stupid goals. The team and fans put this sad day behind them and went on to win the league title, but for the family of Ecuadorian immigrant Marcelo Lucero, this day continues to bring them sadness and pain. It was on this day nearly one year ago when their beloved son and brother, Marcelo, was stabbed to death in Suffolk County, New York by a gang of teenagers who were on a hunt to “kill a Latino, any Latino.”
Mr. Lucero’s mother, who hadn’t seen him for 14 years since he left Ecuador to come to the United States, followed in her sons footsteps after his death to demand justice. By all accounts, Mr. Lucero was a quiet, kind man who got along with everyone. He rarely traveled at night for fear of being attacked by white gangs that preyed on Latinos in the area. These hate crimes give us firsthand accounts of the statistics that we reported on months ago about the dramatic rise in hate crimes, especially against Latinos in the past few years.
One year on, six of the seven accused teens are rotting in a jail cell, awaiting trial. These teens are also the victims of the broken Suffolk County community. They have grown up in an area which is covered in a dark cloud of distorted fear and hatred of ‘the other’. The murder trial is nowhere near a conclusion and the longer the trail continues, the more divided the community remains. In a broken and divided community such as Suffolk County there are few winners. The only winners are anti-immigrant and white nationalist groups that promote divided communities to further enhance their goals.
This sad anniversary gives us all a reason to not only reflect on tragedies of the past, but a reason to look to the future and try to find ways to prevent new tragedies from occurring. Other communities across the country at rising up and taking a stand against hate crimes and anti-immigrant sentiment. Why can’t Suffolk County do the same? One group that must be acknowledged and congratulated for their efforts to bridge the gap in Suffolk County is Long Island Wins. Their organization has not forgotten Marcelo Lucero and his tragic death. As we approach the eve of his anniversary, I encourage all of you to remember Marcelo and to continue to fight racism and bigotry in your community in the name of Marcelo and the others that have needlessly died from hate crimes.