George Zimmerman is behind bars and much of the furor directed toward him by those angered by his murder of Trayvon Martin is cooling.
But the desire by many of these same people to transform the system that led to the death of an unarmed 17-year-old continues to gather steam.
In the 45 days prior to Special Prosecutor Angela Corey charging Zimmerman, 28, with 2nd-degree murder, many of the participants at marches and demonstrations, those on social media sites, and in conversation have made it clear that Trayvon's death means nothing if it doesn't lead to substantive change in racial profiling and police violence against black and brown people.
"People who thought things were OK, this is water thrown in their faces," said longtime activist and human rights advocate the Rev. Graylan Ellis Hagler, senior minister of Plymouth Congregational United Church of Christ in Northeast. "They were slumbering. The fact that four young women organized the Trayvon Martin DC Rally for Justice is historic in itself. They are the face of the activism of young people coming out of the Occupy Movement. It can't be put into a box any longer."
"Instead of the idea of being wealthy, people have been asking the Biblical question: 'What does it profit to gain the whole world and lose your soul?' We have been in danger of losing our soul. This awakened us and aroused our sensibilities. This has to continue to be a movement ... we have to build a movement on a broad front. The agenda has to be to stand with people who are immigrants. If it's not us, it's them. One of us is going to be the target. Black folk have to stand with brown folk."
David Maree and Thenjiwe McHarris, both of whom were instrumental in organizing the national Million Hoodie Movement for Justice, said hard work and sound strategies are vital.
"We plan to make it a movement. It has started organically," said McHarris, a 27-year-old Bronx resident. "... We're seeing a lot of organizations and groups of people coming together, which is great. We have to look [to change] institutions, laws, policies and practices."
That those seeking change has reached this point at all, comes primarily from the increased activism, protests and resistance against social, economic and political elements in the U.S. that the poor and middle class are militating against. They are adding to the groundswell of discontent which crystallized in last year's Arab Spring.
Bill Fletcher, Jr., agrees with the need to build a national protest movement, saying it's critical that people see Trayvon's death not as an isolated incident, but just the latest example of lynchings that have snatched the lives of black men and boys for generations.
"We have to look at the broader cases of justice and lynching," said Fletcher, an editorial board member of BlackCommentator.com and a senior scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies in Northwest. "We have to understand that the Trayvon Martin case is not an aberration. It's part of a long history of lynching. These lynchings have continued and are justified by the demonization of black and brown people."
Going forward, Fletcher said, those seeking to bring about change to the criminal justice system and other racist spheres of American life have "an educational struggle" with whites to get them to understand distinct racial differences when it comes to matters of violence and justice.
"Seventy percent of whites believe that [the case] had nothing to do with race. This goes to the problem where whites are regularly trying to find and are looking at these acts of violence in an isolated fashion," said Fletcher, who succeeded Randall Robinson as president of TransAfrica. " It's hardwired in the way white Americans are taught to believe. They see it as something from the past, not a system; they think it's personal behavior and they see individual acts as racist but don't see what's built into this system. That is a part of the nationalization of this struggle."
Trayvon's death – like that of Emmett Till, Oscar Grant, III, Amadou Diallo, Arthur McDuffie and Sean Bell and countless unknowns – represents a "significant instrument in exercising racist oppression, but they have also been used against political opponents of the dominant forces in this society," Fletcher wrote in a commentary titled, '2, 3 Many Trayvon Martins?' published in the April 12 edition of BlackCommentator.com.
Fletcher, 57, said white Americans will never really understand the toll it takes being a black man in America.
"I thought about the burden we've been subjected to," he said of his initial reaction to Trayvon's murder. "The other thing I thought about – I found myself thinking about the numbers of times that I as a black man has had to think very carefully about where I go, where I walk, and how I dress – things that the average white person would not have to concern themselves with."
Besides organizing people's outrage constructively, Fletcher said the masses must develop a movement against Florida's Stand Your Ground law which is the basis under which Sanford Police Chief Bill Lee and State Attorney Norman Wolfinger declined to arrest Zimmerman.
"... We need to flip these 'Stand Your Ground' acts on their head and show them to be what they are, forms of returning us to the days of the Wild West, the posse and lynch-mobs," Fletcher asserted in his commentary.
Lastly, Fletcher said black and brown people need to rethink neighborhood watch programs. Instead of only focusing on criminal elements entering various communities, members in predominantly black communities should be closely monitoring the police as the Black Panthers did in the late 1960s.
For James Fleming, the case ignited memories of his time as a student at Florida State University and as a Florida resident.
"It was like cold water thrown on my head because 32 years had passed," said the 49-year-old federal government employee. "I remember walking on FSU's campus as a 17-year-old. As black men, our lives were precariously perched. I thought right away of my son who is 14, making 15. The reaction was that it could have been my child."
Fleming said he and a close friend who has a 10-year-old boy discussed the case, with the central question being, how do you protect your children in this type of context?
The case led to discussions between he, his wife and son. The case has introduced a more cautious attitude on Fleming's part, at a time when he had been considering allowing his son more freedom.
"When I talked to [my friend], I remember a feeling I had. It was the same feeling that came back when I heard Trayvon talking to his girlfriend," Fleming said.
"I also remember walking in Tallahassee as an 18 year old and going to buy a Wall Street Journal because [my] subscription hadn't kicked in. When I asked for the paper, a 250-pound good ol' boy swung around and looked at me. It was the first time someone had looked at me with hate. It was a look like he could kill me."
Hagler said America has not been honest with itself and remains divided along racial and class lines.
"In many aspects of American society and law, we have rolled back the clock," he said likening the present day to the backlash after the Reconstruction period in the 1870s. "In [this] culture there is more segregation and a greater increase in fearfulness than ever. It is important to understand that as a society, we have never, ever come to terms with race."
"A man puts the [N word] on Facebook and then goes out and kills black people and somehow we're not sure if it's racially motivated? The reality is that Ray Charles and Stevie Wonder could see that. That's where we are as a society. This is also [an indication] of where we are for electing a black man to the White House. This is a whitewash. It's no different from Reconstruction politics."