On Thursday, February 16th, we had the opportunity to listen and learn more about Trayvon Martin’s life, experiences, family, and his parent’s experiences after the murder. It has been five years since the death of Trayvon Martin. His death occurred on February 26, 2012. However, Travon’s parents, Sabryna Martin and Tracy Martin, choose to celebrate his birthday, February 5, 1995, and the joy he, their son, brought into this world.
In the State of Florida v. George Zimmerman case, the people in this nation (and the world) were provided with Zimmerman’s perspective of what had truly happened. In 2012, Zimmerman was charged with murder shooting Trayvon Martin after walking home from a 7-eleven after buying Skittles and an Arizona. He was found not guilty by the 18th Judicial Circuit, with Honorable Judge Debra Nelson as sitting judge.
Throughout the Rest in Power event, we had the honor of listening to the untold side of the case. Many do not know that Sabryna and Tracy were not allowed to go on trial. they were not given the opportunity to speak of young Martin’s character. However, George Zimmerman’s mother had the opportunity to do so.
We have learned that the area in which the murder took place was a predominately white community and Trayvon Martin looked “suspicious.” According to the case, and Zimmerman, he looked suspicious because of his hoodie. This lead to Zimmerman trying to “protect” the community. Young Martin was seventeen-years old. His parents spoke of his good character and his kind heart with us, because they were not given the opportunity in court. Sabryna stated, “He could have taken off his hoodie, but he couldn’t have taken off his skin.” This is the problem many youth of color face, and it goes unreported ignored. Tracy Martin stated, “Racism is alive and well…Had to had the conversation with them (his children).”
During the trial, Sabryna and Tracy Martin were interviewed numerous times, and often asked many different questions. One question that resonated with Tracy Martin was one that questioned his parental role and obligation. A reporter asked, “Do you think if you were involved in his life, he would be dead?” This questioned surprised him because he was, indeed, already involved in young Martin’s life. It was the stigma, stereotype, and overall assumption of his role as a black father that made him uneasy. He was definitely present in his son’s life. That did not, and could not, have changed how Zimmerman perceived Trayvon Martin.
When the parent’s of Trayvon were presented with the question “How are you moving forward?” they responded with an optimistic and empowering outlook. Both plan to run for public office. “It [the case] was about Trayvon and all the other Trayvon’s that were shot and killed unjustly. It starts with respecting people and who they are” stated Sabryna. Tracy Martin continues, “It starts with the criminal justice system and how off balance it is. It’s all about becoming familiar with each other.
When given the platform to share a message to marginalized communities, Tracy Martin said:
“We shouldn’t have to be afraid… we had to be the voice for the voiceless…Trayvon revitalized the civil rights movement.”
Towards the end of the talk back at the closing of the event, Sabryna Martin stated, “You can’t just shoot people because you are afraid.” She asked all of the womyn in the room if they had ever felt afraid. There were many womyn in the room, and many of them raised their hands. She asked hypothetically asked, “What if we shot every person that made us feel afraid?” She continued, “If [we] shot someone every time [we were] afraid, then everyone is going to be shot. There is a war in our own country that needs to be addressed.”
So much more can be done if we take the time to learn, to be aware, and to understand what communities are facing. There is indeed a problem in our country when police kill at least 102 unarmed black people in one year (2015); that is nearly twice each week.
It is also an issue that only 30% of homicides in Chicago get solved. We are facing big problems, and we need to work together to solve them.
The “a” in ally is for action. We need to act, in big or small ways, to truly see change. That is why Sabryna and Tracy Martin decided to take a stand.
This experience was brought to us by the Chicago Humanities Festival.