Matthew Shepard’s story more relevant now than ever

The American Embassy in Iceland and GayIceland are hosting a screening of the film “Matt Shepard is a Friend of Mine”at Bíó Paradís tomorrow night, at 17.30. Jason Marsden, a friend of Matthew and the executive director of the Matthew Shepard Foundation, will take part in an online discussion after the screening.

Jason Marsden has served as executive director of the Matthew Shepard Foundation since July 1, 2009.
Jason Marsden was a dear friend of Matthew Shepard. He has served as executive director of the Matthew Shepard Foundation since 2009.

The film “Matt Shepard is a Friend of Mine” will be screened in Reykjavík, Iceland tomorrow night, Tuesday, June 14. The film has been shown to international audiences over the past year. How has it been received? “I’ve been so gratified by the number of people who have contacted the Matthew Shepard Foundation on their own initiative to tell us how inspiring they found the movie to be. In addition to a daytime Emmy and numerous film festival awards, it has also made Matt and his life more real to people who have only known him as a historical figure, a victim, or a symbol,” says Jason. The foundation he refers to was founded by Dennis and Judy Shepard, Matthew’s parents. The foundation, which is run by Jason, seeks to “replace hate with understanding, compassion and acceptance” through various educational, outreach and advocacy programs.

You were a personal friend of Matthew. What are your own thoughts of the film? “I was so touched when I saw the film for the first time. It helped me see that the Matt I knew was a lot like the Matt that other friends from his other walks of life knew him to be. I was viscerally affected by the brief moment when we hear Matt’s voice – I have found that one of the toughest parts of losing someone is that you start to forget what their voice sounded like. The film gave that back to me.”

Why do you think it’s relevant that people see it today, 18 years after the tragedy happened? “We keep Matt’s story alive by continuing to tell it; for more than 17 years, Judy and Dennis Shepard have been on the road constantly to speak about Matt and the topic of acceptance. “Hate crimes” and discrimination are abstract concepts. The tragic death of a single person, with a name, a face, ambitions, frailties — that makes the whole complex set of problems LGBTQ+ people have so much more concrete and understandable. There are many young people today who aren’t familiar with Matt’s story. They were either too young or not yet born at the time it happened.

“Matt was a normal, average college student who was brutally attacked and killed for being gay. His death marked a tipping point for the LGBTQ+ community and sparked a new movement and generation of activists who refused to stay silent about it…”

This film is one of several forms of popular media that people can access that portray an real, authentic account of Matt’s life and the world’s reaction to his death, and why that is important. Matt’s story is, unfortunately, still very relevant for many LGBTQ+ and allies today and will remain so as long as hate continues to threaten people’s lives,” says Jason and praises Michele Josue for her directing.

“The film only tangentially explores what I like to call “the hate industry.” We see the delusional Westboro Baptist Church performing for the cameras, but Michele Josue rightly keeps our focus squarely on Matt himself. But by reclaiming the value of this one man’s life, and how he deserved to keep it, we all come to realize organically that the cost of hatred is suffering that spreads beyond our own personal circle to strangers halfway across the world.”

On October 7, 1998, Matthew Shepard, a student at the University of Wyoming, was brutally attacked and tied to a fence in a field outside of Laramie, Wyo. and left to die. Five days later Matt succumbed to his wounds in a hospital. The horrific events that took place became one of the most notorious anti-gay hate crimes in American history. Director Michele Josue (left), who was a close friend of Matthew, decided to introduce the world to him and who he really was through film. The outcome is the critically acclaimed documentary: "Matt Shepard is a Friend of Mine". Michele will also take part in the online discussion after the film's screening on Tuesday. Director Michele Josue, who was also a close friend of Matthew, decided to introduce the world to Matthew and who he really was through film and the outcome is the critically acclaimed documentary: Matt Shepard is a Friend of Mine.
On October 7, 1998, Matthew Shepard (on the right), a student at the University of Wyoming, was brutally attacked and tied to a fence in a field outside of Laramie, Wyo. and left to die. Five days later Matt succumbed to his wounds in a hospital. The horrific events became one of the most notorious anti-gay hate crimes in American history. Michele Josue (left), who was a close friend of Matthew, decided to introduce the world to him and who he really was through film. The outcome is the critically acclaimed documentary: “Matt Shepard is a Friend of Mine”. Michele will also take part in the online discussion after the film’s screening.

The documentary has not only received rave reviews; The New York Times called it a “A tender reconstruction of personal loss.” Rogert Ebert goes so far as to call it “’a great documentary…This film doesn’t just revisit an atrocity, it moves through it, and finds meaning in it.”

But the film has also had major impact in the United States, thanks to Matthew’s parents who have campaigned relentlessly. That campaign has led to a major shift in American law. Tell us about that, and how it feels to see the difference Matthew’s story has already made?

“One of the biggest highlights for the Shepards, and the Foundation as a whole, was the signing of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act by President Barack Obama in October 2009. After more than a decade of advocating and lobbying, the Shepard-Byrd Act expanded the United States’ federal hate crimes law to include bias toward someone’s actual or perceived gender, gender identity, sexual orientation and disability. This legislation allows local, state and federal law enforcement officials to investigate and charge perpetrators with hate crimes in jurisdictions that do not have their own hate crimes law or, if they do, inclusive laws of all victim types. This was the first-ever federal law that specifically acknowledged and protected LGBTQ people’s rights rather than limiting or taking them away. Having the example of Matt and of James Byrd was extremely important in helping lawmakers understand the gravity of the hate crime issue and the need for protections to be expanded.”

Given the U.S. experience in addressing hate crime and violence targeting LGBT people, including the passage of the Shepard-Byrd Hate Crimes Law, what does Shepard Foundation believe can be shared with the rest of the world about addressing hate crime and violence?
“The most basic step is to start dismantling anti-LGBT prejudice in our communities. One of the most effective ways to do this is for LGBT individuals in those communities to be public about their sexual orientations and gender identities. By publicly coming out like this, by telling their stories, they personalize our community for outsiders, elevating our equality from a political concept to a personal issue. In other words, it’s much harder for someone to hate gay people once someone learns their son is gay, or their sister, brother, neighbor. Coming out, getting to know one another, changes hearts and minds.

The foundation he refers to was founded by Dennis and Judy Shepard, Matthew’s parents,
The Matthew Shepard Foundation was founded by Dennis and Judy Shepard, Matthew’s parents, pictured here with their sons Matthew and Logan (far left).

“…for more than 17 years, Judy and Dennis Shepard have been on the road constantly to speak about Matt and the topic of acceptance.”

More systemically, LGBT equality and safety depend on a strong legal system that recognizes equality and safety LGBT persons as inalienable rights, and allows enhanced penalties when those rights are violated. For example, state and federal hate crimes laws acknowledge that LGBT persons not only have a right to be free from bias-motivated violence, but recognize that LGBT persons are also disproportionately targets of such violence. Consequently, hate crimes laws allow prosecutors to add penalties to a criminal’s sentence, be it more time in prison or more money that must be paid to the victims and their families.”

Are there are specific lessons, best practices and challenges that would be useful to highlight? “There are several lessons. First, virtually all hate crimes go unreported to law enforcement. The Department of Justice conducted a massive survey of more than 90,000 scientifically sampled citizens to discover what type of crimes they have been victims of. The results showed that there are probably about 250,000 hate crimes committed in this country alone every year. But by the time police departments report to the FBI what has happened in each of their jurisdictions that year, only 6,000 to 7,000 crimes are reported and recorded. People tell us they didn’t report because they didn’t trust the police to do anything about it, or fear they might be victimized by the law enforcement system themselves due to bias, immigration status and other factors. Police consistently tell us they are disappointed and are being misunderstood. A good deal of our work right now is in trying to bride that gap.”

We turn our chat back to the film screening in Reykjavík where Jason will take part in an online discussion after the screening “Matt Shepard is a Friend of Mine”. How does he feel about the film being shown in Iceland and about interacting with an Icelandic audience?

"Matt Shepard is a Friend of Mine" has won numerous awards, for example a Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Special Class Special and Best Documentary at Out on Film.
“Matt Shepard is a Friend of Mine” has won numerous awards, such as a Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Special Class Special and Best Documentary at Out on Film.

“I couldn’t be more pleased to interact with the audience in Reykjavik and I look forward to getting a better understanding of the community. We’ve seen the film cross so many borders now, from Russia to the Caribbean, be translated into other languages, and continue to strengthen its impact.”

There is no question about that the attack and murder of Matthew Shepard is one of the most notorious hate crimes in US history. Jason and other friends and family members of Matthews have made it a life long goal to keep his memory alive but what does Jason specifically hope grows out of sharing Matthew’s story?

“Matthew and his story got a great deal of attention at the time and in the years since, largely because his parents refused to let the world ignore it. But without comprehensive LGBTQ+ history and culture in our educational curriculum, stories like Matt’s will mostly go unnoticed unless mentioned in news article, told through word of mouth or presented through art like this film, or the play The Laramie Project. From the youth we engage with and interact with, we always find that young people strongly connect with Matthew’s story and his impact. He was a fervent supporter of human and civil rights around the world. He struggled with depression and loneliness. He had triumphs and failures. He was incredibly human, certainly not without flaws, and sought to find love and happiness in his life, work and studies, like many of us do. Young people are inspired by his story and aspire to continue on his path in honor of him.

“Matt’s story is, unfortunately, still very relevant for many LGBTQ+ and allies today and will remain so as long as hate continues to threaten people’s lives.”

The significance in Matthew’s death and the impact it had on the world in 1998 was about much more than who Matt was as a person or an individual, but more representative of a society’s treatment and abuse of the LGBTQ+ community. For decades, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people had been harassed, abused and killed for being who they are. Matthew became a figurehead for the “people we knew,” our neighbors, coworkers, classmates, friends and family—people could no longer dismiss the violent actions as happening to “others.” Matt was a normal, average college student who was brutally attacked and killed for being gay. His death marked a tipping point for the LGBTQ+ community and sparked a new movement and generation of activists who refused to stay silent about it, and non-LGBTQ+ people could no longer ignore the harsh realities this community faced.”

The Hamburger Factory
- gourmet burgers

Ok. You’re in Iceland. Most likely for the first time.

You will probably bathe in the Blue Lagoon and take a road trip to Gullfoss and
Geysir. That’s all well and good. But neither Geysir’s nor waterfalls are
something you eat. That’s why we have 15 brilliant and creative hamburgers at
The Hamburger Factory. And they are all perfectly square. Don’t miss out on
Iceland’s most beloved hamburgers.

The Hamburger Factory is Iceland’s most innovative gourmet burger chain.
Packed with burger-craving customers since it’s opening in 2010, among the
regulars is Iceland’s best known fisherman, Eric Clapton. In our restaurants we
welcome tourists with our newspaper like menu and smiley service. They are
packed with fun items and memorable connections to Icelandic pop culture.

Locations:

Omnom Chocolate
- award-winning chocolate maker

    Omnom Chocolate is an Icelandic craft chocolate company based in Reykjavík. We produce handcrafted chocolate from organic cacao beans sourced ethically and sustainably. We’ve developed direct relationships to create premium chocolate with fine flavor cacao beans.

    Our creative flavors are carefully crafted by meticulous chocolate makers. The cacao beans are roasted, winnowed, ground, and refined into melty-smooth chocolate.

    Omnom’s process is one of constant exploration, invention, and experimentation. If it doesn’t please us, if something isn’t absolutely delicious, there’s no reason to be doing it. So, we always start with our taste buds and follow our instincts. Our team searches for the finest ingredients in the world and new ways to improve chocolate. This obsession with knowing where our ingredients come from has led us around the corner to dairy farms in the Icelandic countryside and all the way to rainforest cacao farms of Nicaragua.

    In only a few short years, we’ve grown from our 50 sq. m. petrol station space and become an award-winning chocolate maker. Now, with our headquarters in 101 Reykjavík, our chocolate is sent out around Iceland and all over the world.

    At the end of the day, our goal is to make chocolate.

     

    Alfred’s Apartments
    - gay owned an operated

      Alfred’s Apartments and Alfred’s Studios is a gay operated and owned accommodation in the heart of Reykjavik.

      Alfred’s Apartments offers spacious apartments at a good price located just around the corner from Laugavegur shopping street. You can choose the apartment starting from a Small Studio for 2 persons to a large One-bedroom Apartment with balcony for 5 persons.

      Their staff will ensure your comfort during the stay and provide the most updated information about the city, gay and night life in Reykjavik.

      Each apartment has a private bathroom with a shower, fully equipped kitchen and free Wi-Fi. Guests can buy groceries at the local grocery store 50 meters from the apartments. Because of their very central location, numerous shops, restaurants and cafés are available in the surrounding area. The Church of Hallgrimur is located 350 m from the apartments, a tourist agency is just 50 m away and the nearest gay bar is less than 5 minutes walking distance.

      Laekur hostel
      In the hostel we have dorms for 4-8 persons with shared kitchen and bathroom facilities. The rooms are furnished with free internet, lockers, and a USB charger by each bed. The beds have linen provided and you can rent a towel in the cafe on the ground floor for 5 EUR.

      All the dorms are mixed with both genders. You can also book a whole room with 4-8 bunker beds.

      Blue Lagoon
      - a world of wonder

      Named by National Geographic as one of the 25 Wonders of the World, the Blue Lagoon is a shimmering expanse of warmth, relaxation, and rejuvenation. Its unique geothermal seawater comes from 2000 meters within the earth where sea and fresh water converge in a tectonic frontier of porous lava and searing heat. Propelled by extreme pressure, the water ascends to the earth’s surface, emerging enriched with silica, algae, and minerals: the elements that endow Blue Lagoon geothermal seawater with its radiant, healing properties.

      From its humble beginnings in the shadows of a geothermal power plant, Blue Lagoon has evolved into a world of wonder, now encompassing a hotel, a restaurant, a luxury lounge, a renowned line of skin care, a research center, in-water massage, and a wealth of spa and refreshment facilities.

      Achieving harmony with the volcanic landscape of Iceland’s Reykjanes lava plain, the lagoon and its surrounding architecture embody the unification of the man-made and the natural, and adhere to the highest principles of sustainability.

      Blue Lagoon. A wonder of the world. A world of wonder.

      Whales of Iceland
      - larger than life

      Whales of Iceland is the largest whale exhibition in Europe (and perhaps even the world), where guests can learn about the giants of the sea in a calm and modern environment. The permanent exhibition features whales like guests have never seen them before. It is truly a giant experience.

      Landsbankinn
      - leading financial institution

      Landsbankinn is a leading Icelandic financial institution. It offers a full range of financial services and is the market leader in the Icelandic financial service sector with the largest branch network.

      The present bank was established on 7 October 2008 but the history of its predecessor dates back to 1886. The bank is owned by the National Treasury of Iceland, which holds 98.2% of its share capital, and other shareholders who own 1.8%.

      Landsbankinn’s strategy is to provide comprehensive financial services that meet customer’s needs. It emphasizes providing exemplary service to customers, developing e-banking for their convenience, increasing the efficiency of support functions, modernizing its technology and ensuring effective utilization of its balance sheet.

      The bank’s vision is to be exemplary and its role is to be a trusted financial partner.

      Special emphasis is placed on promoting a performance-oriented culture in the bank. To follow up on the implementation of this strategy, the bank has defined key goals which are measured regularly to determine progress. These goals include, for example, customer satisfaction and loyalty, profitability, cost efficiency and the correlation between risk appetite and employee satisfaction.

      Landsbankinn wishes to lead the development of a sustainable society in Iceland by integrating economic, social and environmental concerns in its operations. The Bank aims to ensure that both its owners and society at large benefit from its activities.

      It intends to achieve this aim by building solid infrastructure and a strong team of 1.100 employees, by listening to its customers and by respecting and encouraging its employees to actively participate in their community. Landsbankinn was a founding member of Festa, a Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility, and is a member of the UN Global Compact.

      Landsbankinn has been a proud sponsor of the Reykjavik Pride since it was first celebrated in Iceland.

      Dohop
      - get inspired

      Dohop allows people to find the cheapest flights available with just one click. Founded in Reykjavik in 2004, it is the only Icelandic company of its kind and quickly became the go-to tool for finding cheap flights among the locals. Dohop finds the best deals among hundreds of different airlines and online travel agencies, to make sure that the user is getting the cheapest price. Dohop also offers hotel and car rental search engines, so users can make all of their travel bookings from a single website.

      Dohop‘s specialty is finding so-called “self-connect” flight options, which can save travelers money by booking a ticket through two or more different airlines. The ability to look for these self-connect option is what sets Dohop apart from its competition, as it can save people hundreds of dollars on certain routes.

      More recently, Dohop has developed a unique product called Dohop Go!, which allows users to check for the cheapest available flights from their home airport. This tool is perfect for those who are looking for travel inspiration but are not willing to overpay for their flight ticket. Dohop Go! is now available in the Dohop Flights App, both for Android and iOS, along with its traditional flight, hotel, and car search engines. “

      Macland
      - for all your Apple needs

      From starting out as a proper startup with only a good idea and the need to change things, to becoming an established company with 6 employees. Starting from scratch and expanding organically has allowed us to love our expansion and take our customers on the ride with us.

      Macland is located at Laugavegur 23 (101, Downtown Reykjavik)
      For all your Apple needs. We are here.

      Aurora Reykjavik
      - northern lights center

        Aurora Reykjavik is a Northern Lights Center situated in downtown Reykjavík at the Old Harbor next to Icelandair Hotel Marina and Vikin Maritime Museum.

        Aurora Reykjavík is Iceland’s first educational and recreational Northern Lights Center where multimedia is used to explain when, why and how the Northern Lights work, with the highlights being large HD projection of the Aurora’s. We also share myths and legends about what our ancestor thought about those mystical lights.

        The Northern Lights Center is for all ages. Children are our favorite guests and we created the exhibition in a way that children can have a look freely and parents don’t have to worry about things being broken.

        Aurora Reykjavik offers a great selection of souvenirs that are designed and made by Icelanders along with nice little coffee corner, where you can enjoy free coffee and tea while browsing through the souvenirs or just planning your next step.

        Contact Aurora

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          Ísey skyr
          - once tasted never forgotten

          Our Story
          Once upon a time, 1,100 years ago in fact, Nordic settlers began arriving in Iceland. They brought with them the skills and knowledge for producing skyr. As time passed, the know-how and recipe for this nutritious food slowly faded out elsewhere in the Nordic region. Luckily, the Icelandic skyr-making tradition continued.

          For centuries, Icelandic skyr formed a cornerstone of the national diet, helping to keep people strong in living conditions that were often harsh. On family farms countrywide, it was the women who nurtured this dairy and passing on both the recipe and the original Icelandic skyr cultures from mother to daughter.

          Ísey skyr builds on this remarkable legacy. It was some of those very same women, the recipients of their mothers’ expertise, who, around 90 years ago, taught Icelandic dairy scientists the art of skyr-making. The production process is more high-tech these days, and the quality standards more rigorous. However, the basic recipe and the use of original cultures to ferment the skimmed milk remain the same. Protein rich, fat-free, creamy and delicious – Ísey skyr is as relevant to consumers now as it was all those centuries ago.
          This is our secret and you are in on it

          You can read more about Ísey skyr on our website.

          Núðluskálin
          - noodle bar

          Núðluskálin is a small gay owned and operated fusion noodle bar.

          All of our courses are individually made from fresh ingredients and therefore highly customisable.
          We offer fully Vegan versions of all courses.
          Though originally a take-away we now seat over 30 people.

          Núðluskálin is located right in the heart of Reykjavík on Skólavörðustígur 8 (street leading up to the big Church) near the junction with Laugavegur (main street).

          Seatours
          - adventure cruise

          Ferry Baldur – the gate to the West fjords
          and VikingSushi Adventure – Bird & Nature watching Tour for everyone all year around

          The “VikingSushi Adventure” is the right boat tour for travelers who are adventurous and want to experience something new – close up to the nature seafood simply doesn’t come fresher than this! The archipelago area of the Breidafjordur Bay always surprises her visitors during winter or summer with spectacular sights. Where else you get to try delicious fresh scallops and sea urchin roe straight from the ocean served with soy sauce, wasabi and ginger.

          600x400-seatours-tasting

          This old volcanic area, characterized by the typical basalt formations of the islands, is the home of countless birds. Here you will also find the strongest currents in Iceland. The VikingSushi Tour takes roughly two hours and our captain is also the tour guide.

          600x400-seatours

          The VikingSushi Tour is a true adventure through incredible nature which should not be missed by any traveler to West Iceland.

          Birds, possible to spot:
          -puffins (from the middle of April until the middle of August)
          -eider ducks
          -shags
          -kittiwakes
          -fulmars
          -white-tailed eagle

          The car ferry Baldur is the bridge to the West fjords via the island Flatey
          Ferry Baldur crosses Breidafjordur Bay daily from Stykkisholmur on the Snæfellsnes peninsula to Brjanslaekur in the north. A ferry ride considerably shortens the route between the south and mid-west of the country and the West Fjords region. It also gives you the opportunity to experience a floating restaurant.

          Take a stopover at the charming island Flatey when you are crossing the bay or go to a day tour to Flatey and back to Stykkishólmur. At Flatey are no cars allowed and between the houses of the 18th century you get the feeling of a journey back in time.

          Contact Us


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