Organizations that Swish June 15, 2009

Remembering Michael Sandy

The Michael Sandy Foundation was established in memory of Michael Sandy, a young Brooklyn man who was killed in 2006 by a group of men targeting gays for robbery.

Chelsea Tillett is co-founder of the foundation and Michael’s dear friend. I was honored to talk with her about Michael’s legacy, and creating beauty from disaster.

Michael Sandy
Michael Sandy Foundation Logo

Who was Michael Sandy?

Michael Sandy was a designer, a dancer, and an incredible friend.

How did you know Michael?

We all met Michael in various ways once we recognized our mutual love for music, dance, and art. He gravitated toward talent and outgoing personalities. He charmed people on dance floors, and always made you feel he was your best friend.

What were the circumstances surrounding his death?

Michael Sandy was lured into meeting someone he had met online at Plum Beach in Brooklyn. Upon his arrival, the one person that he was “talking” to became three. They chased him, beat him up, and forced him into traffic where he was struck by a speeding vehicle. The three boys fished through his pockets for money and left him dead by the side of the road. They did this because Michael was gay. What’s worse is they thought gay people were easy victims and they hated gay people.

What has the public reaction been to the creation of the Michael Sandy Foundation?

The people that were closest to Michael are our number one supporters. Our fundraising events often make an impact on those who previously did not know Michael. They all appreciate what we are doing because they understand that awareness is the key to change. As word of Mike’s unnecessary death reaches further into the general public and specifically our youth, someone listening will hopefully use his story to dispel a situation where there’s peer or societal pressure to hate.

The foundation has received incredible support from New York City’s Anti-Violence Project, Speaker Christine Quinn, and Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz. These leaders have shown support for our cause and promised to be at our side in the future as we grow.

I read that Michael was a designer for the Swedish furniture brand IKEA. Have they reached out to you in any way or provided financial support and/or publicity to the foundation?

Michael’s manager spoke at his funeral and memorial because he was close to him. We have not reached out for nor received any support thereafter from IKEA.

Michael Sandy Coverage
News coverage of Sandy’s death

What happened to Michael’s attackers?

The four attackers were charged with two counts of second-degree murder, four counts of attempted robbery with two manslaughter counts, and two assault counts. Half of the counts were also charged as hate crimes. Three of the four attackers are in prison serving sentences from seven to 21 years.

Tell me about the memorial being created for Michael.

For the two years since Michael’s death, we have celebrated his life with a candlelight vigil at both his previous residence of 128 Meserole Street and the site of his death, Plum Beach in Brooklyn. The intention of these memorials has been to raise awareness of gay hate crimes, bring together his closest friends to reflect and dance in his honor, and to raise money for the foundation’s work in the community. This year we’ll have two events: our Pride kick-off party on June 20 and the candlelight vigil near the date of his death in mid-October. Our goal this year is to raise enough funds to erect a sculpture at Plum Beach.

How can people donate money or time to the foundation?

People can go to the website, www.michaelsandyfoundation.org, and donate via PayPal or send a check to The Michael Sandy Foundation, 128 Meserole Street #2, Brooklyn, NY 11206. We are always looking for volunteers to help us execute the foundation’s community agenda, staff our parties, and create new interests in keeping Michael Sandy’s memory alive.

What do you think Michael would want people to know about him?

That he was a caring guy who loved to laugh, loved music, loved to move and that he was only getting started.

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