Murdered postal worker Ileto honored in S.F. church

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Slain postal worker Joseph Santos Ileto was remembered in a special service Tuesday evening as a brother, uncle and model citizen — and as a hate-crime victim whose death has been largely ignored by the mainstream media.

The service, conducted at St. Patrick's Church in San Francisco, and at a nearby plaza, drew more than 400 people, including some of Ileto's family members from the Bay Area along with friends, postal employees, and Jewish and Filipino community members.

People streamed into the church holding candles and wearing powder-blue ribbons, which many chose as a way to honor Ileto and those at the North Valley Jewish Community Center who were injured in an Aug. 10 shooting spree near Los Angeles. White supremacist Buford O. Furrow Jr. has been charged in the shootings, which injured three children, a teen and an adult at the JCC

Many of the speakers at the church voiced similar themes: The origin of hatred must not be ignored; communities must fight intolerance collectively; and Ileto's name should be taken from anonymity and used as a clarion call for unity.

"We have to come to grips with our internalized hatreds and fight through them," said Nate Levine, the executive director of the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco.

"We must have the courage — in the workplace, around the water cooler, at home or gathered at the seder table — to not tolerate the harmless ethnic slur," he added. "We must look our friends and family members in the face, if need be, and ask them to reconsider their words."

The Rev. Henry Trainor, associate pastor at St. Patrick's Church, asked the audience to join him in seeking spiritual solace for both the murderer and his victim.

"Let us examine the shadows in all of our hearts," Trainor said. "For it is there that we harbor prejudices of our own that must be recognized, confessed and absolved."

He continued, "And with God's help, the vast and mighty stream of forgiveness can cleanse the evil that wreaks such sorrow."

The evening's most emotional moment came when Ileto's two sisters, Carmina and Raquel, fondly remembered their brother as a vibrant part of a close-knit family, as someone always willing to do a favor for a stranger. They urged the audience to remember his name as a rallying cry against hatred.

"Our family would like all of you to remember Joseph by the acronym "Join Our Struggle, Educate and Prevent Hate In Love Equality and Tolerance To Others," Raquel Ileto said.

Ileto's sisters asked the audience to invoke the Filipino spirit of bayanihan, or forgiveness. "We must all reach outside of ourselves to our neighbors, and give to others as we would to our own," Carmina Ileto said.

Not all of the evening's speakers sounded such conciliatory tones, however.

Lillian Galedo, the coordinator of Filipino Civil Right Advocates, berated the press for its insensitivity, and noted the lack of people of color in the media. They "are absent altogether or presented as caricatures," she said.

"We are gathered to remember the children and women of the Jewish community center who are the most recent victims of white supremacy in America," Galedo said. "And we are gathered to remember Joseph Ileto, who all too often in these past three weeks has been relegated to anonymity by the media and political leaders, who, in the heat of the moment, couldn't identify exactly who he was."

Added Galedo: "Who Joseph Ileto was, was a son, a brother, an honest worker, and an immigrant to this country who believed that his family would find respect, dignity and equality in America."

After Galedo implored the audience to call upon political and spiritual leaders to fight the "atmosphere of hatred" that led to Ileto's death, a final note of defiance was spoken by Ray Fong of the National Association of Letter Carriers.

"We, the letter carriers of America, have received Buford Furrow's message of hate," Fong said. "And we are sending it back to him: address unknown and undeliverable."