By Deborah Bailey,
AFRO D.C. Editor
On May 14, much of the nation froze in shock and horror as televised replays of the murder of 10 innocent black lives at an East Buffalo New York grocery store. The constant reports still are still unwrapping the story of an intentional mass shooting targeted at black people by an 18-year-old white man who lived more than an hour away.
Just two days later Dawn and Richard Collins II stood in front of a plaza on the University of Maryland College Park campus honoring their son, Lt. Richard Collins III. Collins III was killed five years ago this week in an apparent hate crime at the front of the College Park Campus.
The Collins family, civil rights activists, lawmakers, university officials, and students gathered to recognize the fifth anniversary of the shocking stabbing of Lt. Collins, with the dedication of a plaza in honor of the ROTC officer and Bowie State University honor student who was killed just days before his own graduation.
“He was prepared to give his life for this country on the battlefield,” said Dawn Collins said about her son at this week’s memorial dedication. “What we didn’t know is that battlefield wouldn’t be overseas, it would be right here at home on US soil.” She continued.
The similarity in the circumstances between the recent Buffalo New York shootings and Collins III’s stabbing death was on the minds of those who gathered to dedicate the plaza that now permanently bears the name of Lt Richard Collins III.
“People nationwide have been quick to offer support and prayers,” said University of Maryland College Park president Darryll J. Pines. “But we must also promise action,” he concluded.
After their son’s murder, Dawn and Richard Collins II got right to work to create change. Although their son’s killer, Sean Urbanski was found guilty of first-degree murder, hate crime charges against Urbanski were dropped before his sentencing in December 2019.
The Collins and a cadre of supporters from the community, Collins III classmates at Bowie State University and others lobbied the Maryland General Assembly and secured the passage of a new law expanding the scope of hate crimes in Maryland. The Richard Collins III Act took effect in October 2020 expanding the definition of hate crimes in the state to encompass crimes “motivated either in whole or in part by” bias or hate.
Bowie State University President, Aminta Breaux also reflected on both Collins III and the Buffalo hate murders in her remarks and urging those gathered to remain vigilant.
“No, this is not the end. This is the continuation of a fight against racism and violence and injustice in our society,” Breaux said.
Students from Bowie State University and University of Maryland College Park worked together on a mural permanently embedded in the plaza. The two universities are also engaged in a joint collaboration, the BSU-UMD Social Justice Alliance to offer programs and curricula that advance social justice measures on their respective campuses.
Richard Collins II offered something close to a blessing of the plaza that includes a portrait of his son and namesake, and is just across from the bus stop where Collins III was tragically killed.
“He shall forever be the sentinel that stands watch over this hallowed ground,” said Collins.
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