Lining the street where Ecuadorian immigrant Marcelo Lucero was attacked and murdered two years ago, a crowd of about 300 people renewed their call for tolerance and peace by .
"Even though we're [remembering] a tragedy, we're also celebrating unity," Marcelo's brother Joselo Lucero said at the memorial service. "We can make a change. I don't want anyone to suffer what my family has suffered."
Between moments of prayer and musical performances, a number of politicians, religious leaders and other members of the Patchogue community expressed their sadness over the hate crime that took place at Railroad Avenue and Sephton Street on Nov. 7, 2008. Sephton Street has since been .
But they also proclaimed hope for a peaceful future.
"This community has committed itself to celebrating diversity and showing that this is a place where unity and acceptance are not just words, but actions," said Patchogue Village Mayor Paul Pontieri.
One example of this is the creation of a Unity Coalition, according to Galen D. Kirkland, commissioner of New York State's Division of Human Rights.
The Unity Coalition spearheaded a Raising the Curtain on Unity event in April 2009, when more than 1,000 people came to the to watch area high school students put on performances that reflected tolerance and unity.
"We're happy to the extent in which people have volunteered their time to develop and implement strategies that [further] respect for human rights," Kirkland said.
According to Kirkland, the coalition also was instrumental in creating a civility statement, which said members will not use hateful or bigoted speech when discussing immigration issues, for public officials to sign.
Because all seven of Marcelo Lucero's attackers were students at Patchogue-Medford High School, the coalition also conducted a survey of the high school students, which is still in the works.
Pat-Med Superintendent of Schools Michael Locantore, who took , said he is confident the students have learned a great deal since the 2008 attack.
"The pain doesn't go away, but out of this can come a lot of good," Locantore said, adding a diversity council is being created in the high school.
Jacqueline Maldonado, a sophomore at Pat-Med High School whose family is from Honduras, said she does encounter some racial comments from time to time.
"I don't pay any attention to that. I just want to get an education," she said. "I just think everybody should be treated equally no matter where they come from."
Deacon Francisco Diaz-Granados, who serves the Hispanic community at in Patchogue, said he thinks both the police and government officials have been very responsive to the needs of the community.
"In the beginning, people were a little nervous, but I don't think they are anymore," he said. "Things have changed a lot. We can see the difference."
Echoing these sentiments, Patrice O'Neill was on hand to cover the memorial as part of a documentary on the Lucero murder that is scheduled to air on PBS in September next year. The film likely will premier in Patchogue in the Spring of 2011.
"Attending a memorial for a victim of hate, and standing with your neighbors to express condolences to the family and affirm your views about resisting intolerance is a relatively simple thing to do," O'Neill stated. "But it's a chance to meet someone you didn't know. And maybe when people see the [community] photo [that was taken at the memorial] they'll remember the larger things ahead and think about what role we can all play in making the community a better place for everyone."
In order to continue to affect change, Suffolk County Legislator Vivian Viloria-Fisher encouraged members of the Latino community to make their voices heard at the polls.
"You must remain civically active," Viloria-Fisher said. "If you don't vote and if you don't enter into civic dialogue, then no one will listen."
As attendees signed the Wall of Hope that hung along a fence by the train station, Joselo expressed his sorrow for the families of the teenagers who attacked his brother.
"Don't think it's just a one-day story," he said. "It's a 25-year story for one of these kids, and I don't want that to happen anymore."
Joselo was referring to 19-year-old Jeffrey Conroy, who received the . "It was a tragedy for everybody," Joselo said. "I lost my brother, but those parents also lost their kids."
The six other involved received sentences of to years imprisonment for gang assault in the first degree among other charges for including Marcelo Lucero, Angel Loja, Hector Sierra, Petronilla Fuentes Diaz and Octavio Cordovo.
Joselo has been speaking to young people throughout Patchogue, trying to emphasize hope and unity over hatred and violence. He also has started a scholarship fund in his brother's memory, which will be awarded to a Patchogue-Medford student who shows exceptional qualities in working with the community.
"I want my brother's name to stay alive," he said. "It was a tragedy, but now it can be something good."
Those interested in contributing to the Marcelo Lucero Scholarship fund may send donations to:
Marcelo Lucero Award, Patchogue-Medford High School, 181 Buffalo Ave., Medford, NY 11763