This Op-Ed originally appeared in WNET's MetroFocus. This story is part of a series related to tolerance, intolerance, discrimination, hate crimes and bullying in association with the Not In Our Town initiative and documentary.
Today marks the third anniversary of the death of Marcelo Lucero, Ecuadorian immigrant and Patchogue, N.Y. resident. According to the Patchogue Patch, approximately 100 people attended services dedicated to Marcelo Lucero and other victims of hate crimes this weekend. At the services, Marcelo's brother, Joselo, thanked the crowd for attending. "I really feel like this is what I want from the beginning," Joselo Lucero said, "just to have two communities in one place getting along in harmony." Attendees honored other hate crime victimes lost and injured and wrote messages of peace and love in both English and Spanish. After the services, the crowd marched to the spot Marcelo Lucero was killed and scattered roses in his name.
On the day of broadcast, we share with you a video extra featuring Patchogue Mayor Paul Pontieri. Patchogue, New York Mayor Paul Pontieri reflects on his family's history of immigration, his love of his hometown, and how his life has influenced his policy of inclusion for all Patchogue residents.
Released today! In Not In Our Town: Light In the Darkness, the Patchogue-Medford Library plays a pivotal role as a safe haven for the local immigrant community. In Fall 2008, librarian Jean Kaleda and librarian assistant Gilda Ramos learned that people were afraid to attend evening ESL classes at the library for fear of being attacked while walking the streets at night. The librarians were in the process of organizing a public meeting with local officials to address their concerns. A week later, Marcelo Lucero was murdered and the library became a place for healing and dialogue. Spanish-speaking police officers, Patchogue Mayor Paul Pontieri, and local leaders met with community members to address the concerns of the Latino population in Patchogue. A group of quilters worked in the basement of the library as they stitched "Healing Hands, Mending Hearts," a quilt they later presented to Joselo Lucero, Marcelo's brother.
Librarian assistant Gilda Ramos’ achievements as a dedicated community leader were honored by the Library Journal with the distinguished titled “Paralibrarian of the Year” last month. The multilingual library assistant, whose efforts to unite a town torn by anti-immigrant violence are documented in our upcoming PBS documentary Not In Our Town: Light in the Darkness, accepted the award at a special reception hosted by Library Journal during the American Library Association's annual conference held in New Orleans on June 23-28. Ramos, her supervisor Jean Kaleda and other Patchogue-Medford library staff played a key role in the aftermath of the murder of longtime Patchogue resident Marcelo Lucero, who was targeted by a group of teens because he was Latino. “It was heartbreaking,” Ramos told Library Journal. “He was killed in November, and he planned to go home in December.”
In the aftermath of a hate crime, how do teachers open a conversation with their students about hate and intolerance? After seven high schoolstudents assaulted and killed Ecuadorean immigrant Marcelo Lucero in Patchogue, NY, local educators were shocked that this could happen intheir town. At South Ocean Middle School, Principal Linda Pickford wantedto create a safe environment where her students could express theirfeelings about the tragedy, and share their ideas about diversity,immigration, inclusion and respect. When Patchogue Mayor Paul Pontieri suggested that Principal Pickfordhost an art exhibit called “Embracing Our Differences,” she agreed thatart was a great medium to explore these important issues, and shemounted the collection of banners on the front lawn of her school.
Marcelo Lucero's killer, Jeffrey Conroy, was convicted of manslaughter as a hate crime today in Suffolk County, NY. In these videos, Joselo Lucero describes what it has felt like for him and his family to live through the hearings and trials of the defendants charged with the hate-based killing of his brother. Since the tragic killing of Marcelo Lucero, Not In Our Town has been following the community of Patchogue, NY as it deals with issues of race, immigration, hate and intolerance. The upcoming feature documentary, Not In Our Town III, chronicles the efforts of Patchogue's diverse residents and leaders as they grapple with the aftereffects of the murder and begin to take action to make their community safe for everyone.
Tragedy Shapes Community Leadership Joselo Lucero never imagined that he would become a spokesperson and a symbol for community safety and immigrants’ rights. As he spoke Saturday night before the crowd gathered at the site of his brother’s murder one year earlier, the hundreds who had gathered despite inclement weather stood rapt.