(Sept. 12)

One of the most courageously principled women I ever knew, Beth Rickey of Louisiana, died alone at age 53 of heart failure in a New Mexico hotel room 13 years ago today. This morning, Bard College in New York announced that Danielle Riou, who helped arrange evacuation and resettlement for hundreds of Afghan students and staff from the American University in Afghanistan, is the first recipient of its Beth Rickey Award for “sustained and effective action against hate.”

This is fitting and wonderful news.

Let’s take this in three parts: Bard, then Rickey, then Riou…..

By all accounts, Rickey, a Reaganite Republican already, in her 30s, on the party’s state central committee in Louisiana, was one of the foremost heroes of the battle to stop Duke’s rise. Rickey went undercover to a national neo-Nazi convention and recorded Duke speaking there despite his assurances that he had put his white supremacist past behind. She caught him selling Nazi literature from the office he used for state legislative work, and she endured countless death threats to expose other Duke transgressions.

Shy by nature, but devilishly witty in private, Rickey was nervous in the spotlight, but when it came to bringing to light the extraordinarily hateful things Duke said and did against black and Jewish people, she was indefatigable. Alas, she caught a mysterious virus on a mission trip to Mexico and spent the last 13 years of her life in ill health and, eventually, nearly destitute.

Hence the Bard Center for the Study of Hate deciding to name its new award after Rickey. It was supposed to be launched in 2020, but the coronavirus pandemic got in the way.

Thirteen months ago, when allied forces pulled out of Afghanistan, Bard began organizing an effort, and spending well over a million dollars, reportedly, to evacuate hundreds of people from the university there. It was noble work.

That’s where Riou came in. The sometimes dangerous evacuation efforts were just the start of what the U.S.-friendly Afghans needed to make new lives away from the hateful, vicious Taliban. To be resettled in the Hudson Valley, near Bard, they needed massive amounts of what the Bard Center for the Study of Hate described as “the bureaucratic and legal details of resettlement that tend to baffle and dismay all but the most tenacious advocates.”…. [The full column is at this link.]



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