The 25-year-old victim of a hate crime in Richland Hills March 28 is taking preventative measures into his own hands with a new organization to help those who have been attacked to speak out.
Lloyd Guerrero was beaten with a cane by his 71-year-old neighbor Wanda Derby while he was trying to help her son move in to his family’s apartment next door.
Derby allegedly attacked him and called him “faggot,” later allegedly telling police she thought he would give her son AIDS because Guerrero is gay.
Although he sustained minor bruises from the incident, he said other incidents that his friends have encountered over the years from people that were never caught pushed him to use his personal experience to help others speak out for justice. The next day, March 29, he started working on Project: Blue Voice.
“I’m not so much doing it for me anymore. I’m doing it for all those people who can’t or won’t speak out,” he said. “If it helps one person, then that’s awesome and that would make me feel like I helped.”
The project originally began on Facebook, he said, as a page to bring hate crime attacks to the attention of the public and encourage those who have survived attacks to come forward and report them.
But Guerrero said the page was not enough. The project grew into an organization and Guerrero has filed for nonprofit status with Texas. He launched a website Sunday and is now incorporating videos on YouTube. He has already filmed a video speaking about his experience but has not yet uploaded it to the sites.
Videos are intended for victims of hate crimes to wear half of a plain blue Phantom of the Opera-type mask to hide part of their identity while sharing their story. Family members who share stories of loved ones whom they have lost to violence should wear the entire mask to show that they are speaking for someone that can no longer speak for themselves, he said.
The blue mask is a symbol of the organization, and Guerrero said he took the color from Facebook because that’s where the group started and also decided to use blue because of the black and blue bruises that physically heal but remain emotionally intact after violent acts.
He said he wants the project to go national with input and participation to make the public aware that hate crimes happen everywhere but are not always reported.
“What we want to accomplish nationally is that these things [hate crimes] are happening and people are getting away with it,” he said. “People aren’t talking about it. If they see other people speaking out, then maybe they’ll feel more comfortable talking about it.”
Guerrero said he has received more than 100 emails and Facebook messages from LGBT youth and family members who have contacted him to share their stories. The stories brought tears to his tears and made him realize the potential he has to help prevent future violence.
“It made me cry because people can’t say anything because they’re too scared to,” he said. “The further we can go with [the project], the better chance we have of preventing things from happening.”