Pushpika and Lalita Celebrate Community and Tolerance

As long-time MarketPlace India customers know, Pushpika and Lalita are from a family of sisters who share a commitment to giving back to the community. This prompted them to start MarketPlace to empower women in Mumbai, who had few choices. Each sister gives back in a different way that leverages their individual talents and strengths, so that their community involvement is a joyous one.

So it should not surprise anyone that Pushpika and Lalita find ways to have fun contributing to their US communities too! This summer, for example, they participated in the Ricky Birdsong Race Against Hate. The two Freitas sisters live in Evanston, a University town with a long history of progressive activism, dating back to the suffragette movement. Today, Evanston is known for its diverse population, where people of all ethnicities and cultures, including recent immigrants, send their children to the same community schools.

This harmony of cultures was tested 12 years ago when a beloved Northwestern University coach of African-American descent, Ricky Birdsong, was shot in front of his children while jogging near his home. He was one of almost a dozen people targeted by a white supremacist because of their religion, skin color, or heritage in a brief but devastating shooting spree.

The community of Evanston responded to this tragedy by establishing the Race Against Hate in Ricky Birdsong’s name, which has managed to turn the anniversary of the crime into a celebration of the life of Ricky Birdsong and the community who loved him. A record 4,018 runners and walkers participated in the event this year. The event is sponsored by the Evanston YWCA.

“This is the first time I participated in the Race against hate. It was an exhilarating experience – to know that I live in a community that condemns hatred and racism and is prepared to come out and stand up against it,” said Lalita. “We both love to walk and you see many of your friends and neighbors along the way, which really does build community.”

Ricky Birdsong’s wife says that the decision to commemorate his life through the Race is a tribute to the way he chose to embrace life with a positive attitude. She described his values as reflected in his favorite quote: ‘Life is ten percent what happens to you and ninety percent how you react to it.’

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