Elizabeth Sunderman was among the diverse crowd Sunday night watching singer/rapper/flautist Lizzo perform a set full of body positivity, self-empowerment and joy at a sold-out Express Live.
“I think if you asked anyone for a hug, they were gonna give you a hug,” Sunderman said. “It was that type of spirit.”
Hours later, the 27-year-old was being assaulted in what she believes was a hate crime.Get news and entertainment delivered to your inbox: Sign up for our daily newsletter
Sunderman had left the concert in the Arena District to meet friends in Worthington. Afterward, she caught an Uber to her apartment complex on Coachman Road north of Bethel Road on the Northwest Side.
When she arrived at 12:46 a.m. Monday she was approached by a man about 40 years old, according to a Columbus police report.
In a Facebook post later Monday morning, Sunderman said the man, who she believes lives in the building, repeatedly called her a homophobic slur.
“I was then kicked multiple times in the face, and my head was slammed into the stairs,” she wrote. “As I finally got the police called, he was gone. He was never located last night but the search will continue. I will get justice.”
She also shared a picture of her busted lip and black eye. Police say that Sunderman was treated for a bloody nose at the scene.
The Columbus police report called the incident a misdemeanor assault. However, the report did not categorize the crime under hate/bias. Police have not identified the suspect and could not provide further details, saying the case is still under investigation.
“You never think it’s going to happen to you until it does,” said Sunderman, who recently moved to the apartment complex. “I’ve had friends follow me home since this happened. I don’t know if it’s the area or if it’s just that there’s some people out there (and) you never know where they’re going to be.”
The Columbus LGBTQ community and others have rallied around Sunderman, organizing a GoFundMe campaign in her honor.
About two dozen adults and kids gathered Wednesday evening to show support at a Pride on Bethel march. The group walked 1.2 miles from the Carriage Place Community Center on Sawmill Road to Graeter’s Ice Cream on Bethel Road. They waved rainbow flags and held signs with messages such as “Love is love,” “Born this way” and “Dismantle hate.” Someone blasted songs by Whitney Houston, Lady Gaga and, of course, Lizzo.
“The amount of love that I’ve received has been insane and amazing,” Sunderman said. “I feel safe at this point with the amount of people that I have surrounding me.”
“All of us are just outraged,” said Gabrielle Woods, who organized the event with Kat Goryunova, Hilary Gabrielle Fisher and Samantha Bujarski. “We just wanted to bring a strong front to this area and her neighborhood especially, just to show that this is a community built on love and support and not the kind of hateful act that happened.”
And they wanted to send a message of hope to others.
“I felt like we needed to have a demonstration to show everybody that we’re here to support you,” said Goryunova. “If you are LGBTQ, whether you’re getting discriminated against because of your religion, your skin color, whatever, that there’s a community that will be here.”
Th FBI said that 7,100 hate crimes were reported in 2017; the number increased for a third consecutive year.
Victims of hate crimes span all levels of socioeconomic and celebrity status. Even Lizzo, who spread so much positivity in Columbus, filed a complaint against a “bigoted” security guard at Milwaukee's Summerfest back in June.
According to the artist’s tweet, the security guard assaulted members of her team.
Lizzo offered words of encouragement to her fans in the message that probably ring true for Sunderman and her supporters in Columbus.
“You are beautiful. But the struggle ain’t over.”