A former neo-Nazi skinhead who now renounces racism and preaches a message of tolerance will deliver the eighth annual West Virginia State University Human Rights Lecture on Thursday.
Tom "TJ" Leyden spent 15 years in the skinhead movement promoting hate and bigotry before changing his ways when his 3-year-old son began using racial slurs. Fearing for his son's future, Leyden turned away from messages of hate to those of hope.
He will talk about his personal transformation beginning at 11 a.m. in the Davis Fine Arts Building on West Virginia State's Institute campus. The event is free and open to the public.
Since turning away from the neo-Nazi movement, Leyden has authored the book "Skinhead Confessions: From Hate to Hope," and was invited by President Bill Clinton to be a featured speaker at the White House Conference on Hate Crimes.
He has been featured in Time Magazine, on an episode of the television program "48 Hours" and in several episodes of the "Gangland" series on the History Channel.
He also worked for more than five years for the Simon Wiesenthal Center teaching on the culture of hate and the importance in fighting back against it. Leyden has also testified against individuals on trial for hate crimes.
Leyden, along with his wife Julie, also founded StrHATE Talk Consulting, which works to combat hate, bigotry and intolerance through education.
The Human Rights Lecture is sponsored by WVSU Collegiate Support and Counseling Services and WVSU Cultural Activities and is funded by a West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission Diversity for Equity Grant.For more information, contact Collegiate Support and Counseling at 304-766-3196.