October 2018 marks 20 years since the death of University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard — a murder that gained international media attention and shined a light on hate crimes for the LGBTQ+ community. It also galvanized innumerable LGBTQ+ community members and allies, spawned the creation of influential works like “The Laramie Project” and the creation of the Matthew Shepard Foundation. After a decade of advocacy, a federal hate crimes bill finally passed, but the violence perpetrated against LGBTQ+ people has continued, and is increasing in a hostile political and cultural climate. Join Matthew’s parents and founders of the foundation, Judy and Dennis, along with antiviolence experts and advocates who have worked on related issues in a discussion of what this 20-year mark means and what is happening now: from antiviolence efforts to attempts to outlaw the so-called “gay panic” defense, to the work being done to educate law enforcement and the public.
Moderator: Cathy Renna
Panelists: Dennis Shepard, Judy Shepard, Beverly Tillery
Awards presented: Excellence in Newswriting, Excellence in Newswriting (Non-daily), Excellence in Documentary, Excellence in Religion Coverage Award
CATHY RENNA is the Principal of Target Cue, a premier public relations and communications firm that focuses on LGBT and HIV-related issues and events and provides media training, strategic and crisis communications services to diverse nonprofit organizations. While working for GLAAD in 1998, she was dispatched to Laramie, Wyoming, immediately following the attack on Matthew Shepard and worked with journalists and community on the ground through the aftermath of his death, the trials and community impact. She has also worked with the Tectonic Theater Project on media and education related to “The Laramie Project.”
JUDY & DENNIS SHEPARD lost their 21 year-old son, Matthew, to a murder motivated by anti-gay hate in October 1998. Matthew’s death moved many thousands of people around the world to attend vigils and rallies in his memory. Determined to prevent others from suffering their son’s fate, the Shepards decided to turn their grief into action and established the Matthew Shepard Foundation to carry on Matthew’s legacy. The foundation is dedicated to working toward the causes championed by Matthew during his life: social justice; diversity awareness and education; and equality for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. Judy Shepard is the founding president of the Matthew Shepard Foundation board of directors, and served as its first executive director as well, from 1999 to 2009. In her continuing role as board president, she travels across the nation speaking to audiences about what they can do as individuals and communities to make this world a more accepting place for everyone, regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, sex, gender identity and expression or sexual orientation. Speaking from a mother’s perspective, Judy also authored a 2009 memoir, “The Meaning of Matthew,” exploring the family’s journey through the prosecution of Matthew’s assailants, the ensuing media coverage and their continuing work to advance civil rights. Originally trained as a teacher, Mrs. Shepard holds a bachelor’s degree in secondary education from the University of Wyoming where she later pursued some post-graduate studies. She and Dennis continue to make their home in Casper, Wyoming.
BEVERLY TILLERY is the executive director of the New York City Anti-Violence Project, an organization that empowers lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (LGBTQ) and HIV-affected communities and allies to end all forms of violence through organizing and education and supports survivors through counseling and advocacy. She is an experienced thought leader, advocate and national organizer with nearly three decades of experience working in social justice movements. Most recently, she was a deputy director of education and public affairs in charge of community education, advocacy and inclusion at Lambda Legal, an organization dedicated to achieving full recognition of the rights of LGBTQ people and people living with HIV. There, she led national educational and advocacy campaigns and community-based research projects aimed at changing policies as well as hearts and minds. Prior to Lambda Legal, she worked as an organizer, popular educator, strategist and staff leader at Amnesty International, Service Employees International Union and ACORN. Beverly lives in Harlem with her partner and their 12-year-old daughter.