Trayvon Martin: Moment or Movement?
Barrington M. Salmon | , WI Staff Writer | 4/18/2012, 3:19 p.m.
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."