By Deborah Bailey,
Dawn Collins fights back tears when she speaks about her son, Richard Collins III.
The proud Bowie State University mom was just days away from watching her son, recently commissioned as an Army 2nd Lieutenant, walk across the commencement stage.
Lt. Richard Collins III would have been the third generation of his family to join the military.
His decision to simply visit friends on the University of Maryland campus one fateful night would forever augment the family line.
On May 20, 2017, Lt. Collins was stabbed to death at the hands of Sean Urbanski, who was admitted to life at the Patuxent Institution.
“I am adamant about speaking my son’s name. There are those who put a name on true patriotism. I stand here to say that my family– we– are patriots,” said Collins to the applause of those gathered at the White House for President Biden’s inaugural United We Stand Summit. “The Almighty has heard my prayers, a change is going to come, and his death is not in vain.”
Dawn and Richard Collins, the parents of Lt. Richard Collins III, were honored as “Uniters” on Sept. 15 at the United We Stand Summit in Washington, D.C. The Collins family lost their son, Richard, when he was stabbed to death near a bus stop on the University of Maryland campus in 2017. (Courtesy Photo)
Collins spoke to the parents, friends, educators, and advocates fighting for change in the face of an unprecedented surge of hate crimes and divisive activity. She shared the moment at the White House with her husband, Richard Collins Jr.
The Collins family was honored at the United We Stand Summit recently held at the White House. The parents were recognized as national “Uniters,” or persons engaged in “extraordinary work in their communities to stand together against hate, build bridges, and heal divides,” according to White House sources.
The five-year journey from that horrific day in May 2017 started far from Pennsylvania Avenue. The parents of Lt. Collins have worked tirelessly with local, state, and federal officials to change the designation of hate crime laws in Maryland and on the national level as well.
In March 2020, the Maryland State Legislature passed the 2nd Lieutenant Richard Collins III Law, strengthening Maryland’s existing hate crime statutes. While Collins’ killer was charged and found guilty of 1st-degree murder, hate crime laws in Maryland at the time did not allow him to be charged with committing a hate crime against Collins.
In response to the death of Lt. Richard Collins III, the Maryland State Legislature passed the 2nd Lieutenant Richard Collins III Law in March 2020, which would strengthen the state’s existing hate-crime statutes. Pullquote: “There are core values that should bring us together as Americans. One of them is standing together against hate, racism, bigotry violence that have long haunted and plagued our nation.” (Courtesy Photo)
According to organizers of the event, the United We Stand Summit at the White House was designed to “put forward a shared vision for a more united America, demonstrating that the vast majority of Americans agree that there is no place for hate-fueled violence in our country.”
The Collins family and several others touched by hate crime were honored as “Uniters” at the White House Summit have a direct relationship with hate-inspired violence.
Alana Simmons Grant was honored as a “Uniter” for the work she has done since her grandfather, Rev. Daniel Lee Simmons, was killed in the June 2015 shooting at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C.
Simmons said that amid the grief surrounding the death of her grandfather and the way he died, she endured “a rough introduction to the judicial system.”
South Carolina is one of three states that have no hate crime laws in place.
Dylan Roof was sentenced to death on Jan. 10, 2017 after being convicted of “33 counts of federal hate crimes, obstruction of religious exercise, and firearms charges,” on Dec. 15, 2016, according to information released by the Department of Justice (DOJ).
During the Summit, President Joseph Biden announced several federal initiatives designed to strengthen the nation’s response to hate-filled violence and advance bonds and civility between Americans.
Alana Simmons Grant is the granddaughter of Rev. Daniel Lee Simmons, one of nine Americans shot to death by Dylan Roof on June 17, 2015 at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C. (Courtesy Photo)
“There are core values that should bring us together as Americans,” said Biden. “One of them is standing together against hate, racism, bigotry [and] violence that [has] long haunted and plagued our nation.”
New initiatives announced during the White House United We Stand Summit include:
- $1 billion in new funds through the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act to support safer and healthier learning environments.
- Additional funds from the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act to support student wellbeing and resilience in the face of hate and trauma
- The White House Initiative on Hate-Motivated Violence, established to strengthen interagency coordination in preventing and responding to hate-motivated violence, leverage federal research and resources, and enhance engagement and consultation with diverse stakeholders– including communities targeted for who they are or what they believe.
- A call from the Department of Education for colleges and universities to strengthen efforts to prevent and respond to hate-based violence on their campuses and in their surrounding communities. In addition, the Department will gather leaders from institutions of higher education in communities that have experienced hate-fueled violence, including HBCUs subjected to recent threats, to spotlight effective practices in prevention and response.
- A joint summary from the DOJ, Homeland Security, and the Departments of Education and Health and Human Services for parents, caregivers, and community members, designed to provide information on how to improve incident preparedness; promote and expand programs for secure firearm storage at home; and access trauma-informed services and other resources for children, parents, and communities in the aftermath of an incident.
- Increased awareness of the The Department of Homeland Security’s Nonprofit Security Grant Program, which helps protect houses of worship and nonprofit institutions serving at-risk communities against terrorist attacks and targeted violence. It is available to help safeguard houses of worship including Catholic, Evangelical, or Mainline churches; synagogues; mosques, temples, gurdwaras, and other sacred spaces.
Anti-hate and extremism efforts by local, private and community sources
- More than 140 mayors have signed a new Mayors’ Compact to Combat Hate and Extremism.
- Leading civic institutions will launch, “A Nation of Bridgebuilders.” Interfaith America, Habitat for Humanity, and the YMCA of the USA are responding to the President’s call to action by engaging tens of thousands of Americans in rural, urban, and suburban communities across the nation in meaningful opportunities to bridge diverse identities and divergent ideologies. Through A Nation of Bridgebuilders, organizations will train 10,000 leaders across the nation in bridge-building skills and host over 1,000 events with a bridge-building focus in over 300 communities.
- New Pluralists will galvanize funders to invest $1 billion toward building a culture of respect, peace, and cooperation
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