By Deb Silverthorn
In this moment when the world is faced with hatred, it seems timely for the ADL (Anti-Defamation League) Texoma 2023 Walk Against Hate. On Sunday, Oct. 29, beginning at 8:30 a.m. at Klyde Warren Park, the Walk Against Hate will bring together individuals and groups of varied backgrounds, beliefs, religions, races and colors.
“It is so important that we come together. There is no room for hate in Dallas, in Israel, in the world,” said Stacy Cushing, ADL Texoma regional director.
The Walk, which began in Philadelphia in 2012 and has events during the year in cities in California, Florida, Michigan, Nevada, New York and Pennsylvania, has reached more than 100,000 participants — more than 1,000 at Texoma’s 2022 event. It is a family-friendly morning to demonstrate the collective power of community coming together to move toward a future without antisemitism, racism or bigotry.
The ADL’s 2022 audit of antisemitic incidents documented the highest number of such instances since reporting began in 1979, with more than 3,697 acts of assault, vandalism and harassment nationwide, a 36% increase from the year before. In Texas, the ADL reports that last year’s number of incidents increased by 89% from the prior year, from 112 to 212 incidents.
“We must come together, stand together and walk together against hate of all kinds. The need for this event is even more important now than before the Oct. 7 beginning of the war in Israel,” said Cushing.
With more than 100 sponsors, without whom the walk’s organizers say the event could not be held, the Walk Against Hate will feature 1- and 2-mile routes, along which community members will be cheering on the participants. Proceeds from the Walk will support ADL’s efforts to fight hate for good through anti-hate and anti-bullying programs in schools, civil rights advocacy work, extremism training for law enforcement and incident response and community support for the region.
“When you talk about fighting hate, bigotry and violence, most people want that to stop. Hate is a learned behavior and we need to educate ourselves and our communities and to fight it in all its forms,” said Neil Goldberg, honorary chair of the Walk Against Hate. “It takes a community, it takes a village. We’re bringing our communities and our village together to do just that.”
The morning’s program will feature the recognition, as Heroes Against Hate, of Dallas Police Chief Eddie Garcia and Carter High School student Akela Larzei.
“Heroes Against Hate are those in our community who have fought discrimination and proactively led efforts to combat hate. I can’t think of two more deserving individuals than Chief Garcia and Akela,” Cushing said. “It’s inspiring to see our community come together to honor our common humanity and our modern-day heroes.”
Garcia was chosen for the honor for his work in implementing policies to reduce violent crime and build community through transparency and proactive approaches to police work as well as his commitment to public safety and community engagement. Born in Puerto Rico, he said that after his family moved to San Jose, California, he experienced prejudice and the cruelty of classmates.
“You don’t have to experience hate to feel empathy, but I have been there. Our department has collaborated with the ADL Texoma office since before my time here. They are an agency of caring, of strength, of passion and with a serious understanding of what has to be done, of what we can do, to make a difference in our world,” said Garcia.
“We hear the messages of the ADL and I want people to know I really do care. We are paying attention and we want to help educate those around us,” said Garcia, who has led the Dallas Police Department for three years. “I am grateful for this honor. The Walk Against Hate is a model program to express how we feel — we aren’t going to tolerate hate here. Not in this city.”
A junior at Carter High School, Larzei is the daughter of Myrna and Hugh Larzei and one of five sisters. She is being honored for her community outreach and advocacy efforts as a participant of the youth guidance program, “Working on Womanhood” and as a youth leader at Camp Wisdom United Methodist Church. An athlete on her school’s tennis, golf and softball teams and a member of Carter’s yearbook crew, Larzei also serves as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army Junior ROTC program. In 2025, she will graduate high school with an associate degree. She plans to study business and hopes also to someday attend culinary school.
“It’s important for us all to be together, to get along with one another and to find a spirit of caring for one another no matter what someone looks like, believes or where they come from. Whatever our place in life, from whatever our background, we are all people,” said Larzei.
Susie Carp, ADL Texoma board chair, who cofounded the Texoma Walk with Wendy Stanley, said, “We are all powerful and we look forward to sharing an inspiring morning together, standing shoulder to shoulder. Our impact is our feet on the street.”
Details, sponsorship information, donations to an individual or walking team and registration information can be found at WalkAgainstHate.org/Dallas.