- Politics and Social Issues»
Revised Blond Haired and Blue-Eyed Trayvon Martin
Sanford, Florida: The Unhappiest Place in the World
Imagine Trayvon saying this to Zimmerman
When you look at me: What do you see?
Am I not innocent until proven guilty?
Why must I be your enemy?
Portion of anonymous poem left on the doorstep where Amadou Diallo was killed, as provided by U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer – Driving While Black: Highways, Shopping Malls, Taxicabs, Sidewalks – What To Do If You Are A Victim of Racial Profiling by Kenneth Meeks
I spend a lot of time on Facebook looking at fan pages for interesting news items. My inner librarian is always clamoring for information and trying to stay abreast of current events. I am a news-a-holic. Blame it on my mother. While growing up she miraculously had dinner on the table everyday between 5:00 and 5:15 pm after having worked all day. She, my father and I would have dinner, and then she’d have her bath and be ready for the evening news at 6:00. Yes, she was able to have her dinner and bath all done before 6:00 – definitely no later than 6:15. She always took short baths because, in her words, she was “not going to wash all the Black off.” So this may explain why I am a news junkie.
Then there was my Uncle Bud, my mother’s younger brother who lived in Virginia. There was an implicit understanding between my mother and him that neither would call nor accept phone calls between the hours of 6:00 and 7:00 pm because as Uncle Bud reasoned, “how could anyone not watch the news?” He always said that he made no calls between 6:00 pm and 7:00 pm and if he received a telephone call during those hours, it had to be someone who did not watch the news or they wouldn’t be calling him at that hour and that being the case, he didn’t want to talk them anyway. A thirst for news and information runs in the family blood.
Times have changed and many of us, including myself, get our news quite differently from my mother and my Uncle Bud. We don’t have to be slaves to the television between 6:00 pm and 7:00 pm to get our news. We can get up-to-the-hour news coverage twenty-four hours a day. I get my news mostly from Facebook, CNN, MSNBC, HLN, the Tom Joyner Morning Show, The Michael Baisden Show and from the local radio (Foxy 107/104, 97.1 WQMG, 102 JAMZ, WTVD-Durham/Raleigh, WXII Winston-Salem, and television stations which I can watch as early as 4:30 am as I’m a raging insomniac.
Contrary to prevailing opinion, although I do spend a lot of time on Facebook, I am not trolling for online dates, shouting people out or telling all of my business a la “I’m at the club now, y’all, getting my dance on!”, or “I just bought a forty and some Newports and the party has begun!”, or “I’m watching this fine brother walk by and he just smiled at me so stay tuned!” Well, I do have moments when I lapse into silliness like the time I was taking my pretend brother, Brad, to work early one morning this past summer. We passed a farm and the cows were all in a line and I posted on my wall that the cows were doing the “Cupid Shuffle.” My mom’s sister and Facebook friend, 'Ain’t' Jackie (as I call her) promptly called my mother and told her that I wasn’t out looking for work as I had claimed, but that I was spending time on Facebook being silly. Needless to say, 'Ain’t' Jackie has been defriended. She ain’t my friend no more! But truth be told, I am usually browsing news sites and re-posting onto my wall, those stories that are of some relevance and importance to me that I think others may find interesting and important as well.
Honestly, there are sooooo very many news stories out there and so much to become outraged about, that I’ve learned to carefully choose my battles. I choose to focus on those issues which I think my like-minded friends would find interesting and I pass along the information using the SHARE button on facebook. Most recently my newsfeeds have been filled with information about the Rush Limbaugh/Sandra Fluke situation and Rush’s non-apology to Sandra Fluke, I decided that I wasn’t going to involve myself in that stupidity. Rush called this young woman a ‘prostitute’ and a ‘slut’. Then after public outrage and the loss of several sponsors, Rush offered to Ms. Fluke, a non-apology. He apologized for his choice of words but did not apologize for calling her moral character into question. It’s as if he is saying, “I should have used different words. Maybe I should have called you a “ho” or a ‘streetwalker’ instead of calling you a ‘slut’ or ‘prostitute.’ I apologize for my choice of words but in my mind, Ms. Fluke, you are still a slut.” Regardless of which words he chose, he slandered this young woman and insulted her character and made no real apology for that.
Rush Limbaugh has many die-hard fans and is considered the de facto leader of the GOP. I first became acquainted with Rush back in the early 1990s while completing my Bachelor’s Degree at UNC-Greensboro after transferring from Howard University. (Yeah, I know, right) I was taking a graphical, statistical economics course and most of my classmates were Rush Limbaugh fans. I’d never really listened to his show so I would tune into his program occasionally to hear what all the fuss was about. I was appalled and sickened by all of the hate and venom spewing from this man’s lips. Bill Clinton was President at that time and Hillary was working on healthcare reform. Rush frequently referred to Hillary as a femi-nazi and had nothing at all positive to say about the Clinton administration. I quickly learned to dismiss Rush Limbaugh and his rhetoric from my memory. I choose not to deal with other people’s crazy. I have my own crazy to deal with. (Think bovine “Cupid Shuffle”) I’m truly sorry Sandra Fluke had to be on the receiving end of Rush’s crazy, hateful vitriol.
One story I could not ignore, as much as I tried, was the story of Trayvon Martin, the seventeen year old baby who was senselessly murdered down in Sanford, FL by a renegade community watch captain. The story appeared on my newsfeed several times a day, every day for weeks. My heart was not ready to deal with this story.
I usually have several windows open at once while I am web surfing. On this past Monday evening, I’d scrolled past a story about Trayvon Martin as I’d done several times before. The bright, sparkling eyes of young Trayvon bordered by chubby cheeks peered at me from my computer screen. In another open window on my computer were the bright sparkling eyes of my own 18-year old, dreadlocked son who has had his own brushes with violence over the last few years.
I don’t know what it is but my son, Devin, just seems to attract trouble like mosquitoes to Bath and Body Works-scented skin on a warm summer night. Once Devin hit puberty madness just took up residence in our lives. Bullying, school expulsions, teacher insults and accusations of gang membership came home from school with him almost daily. Devin once took a pocket knife to school, unbeknownst to me, to defend himself against his bullies. He explained to me that he wasn’t going to use the knife on anyone. He had no intention of cutting anyone. He just wanted to make it clear to his bullies that they should back off.
Devin the sixth grader was a smart, polite, Principal’s list student who, along with his best friend Tyler, was being taunted by some kids at school. I was summoned to the school and “given the business” by school administrators about my son having brought the pocket knife to school. Because of the schools Zero Tolerance Policy (for indiscretions of school policy by Black children), Devin was expelled from school.
Several years later, Devin somehow came into possession of a gun and carried it around with him to defend himself against gang members who lived outside of our community. Devin himself was not a member of any gang, but living in the neighborhood where we resided, he was acquainted with gang members. Thankfully, Devin’s stepmother discovered that he was carrying a gun before any school or law enforcement authorities caught him. His father disposed of the gun in some way and I was relieved that we had, again, averted tragedy. But dang!
We literally dodged another bullet one August night in 2008 when fourteen year old Devin wanted to attend a party with some of his friends and I gave him permission to go, but thankfully my mother vetoed. “This boy is too young to go to a party like that. What will he have to look forward to doing if you let him do everything now?” Devin did not attend the party at the National Guard Armory that August night and tragically a friend of his, Ladarius, was killed that night. I often think that if my mother had not intervened, Devin would have attended that party and he may not be here with me today, as young Trayvon is not with his mother today.
My heart goes out to this heartbroken mother, Sybrina Fulton, and father, Tracy Martin, who I know are missing their son terribly. Instead of being able to fully grieve their loss at this time, Trayvon’s parents and family are involved in trying to, not only bring his killer, George Zimmerman, to justice but they are simply trying to have Zimmerman arrested and charged for killing their son - which is an indisputable fact. George Zimmerman, their son’s killer, continues to walk around free today as if he’d simply thrown stolen a pack of gum from a convenience store. “My son left Sanford, FL in a body bag while Zimmerman slept in his own bed,” said Tracy Martin.
On February 26th, George Zimmerman, the community watch volunteer at the gated community of Retreat at Twin Lakes development in Sanford, FL, which is located thirty miles from Orlando (ironically the home of Disneyworld - the happiest place in the world,), noticed young Trayvon Martin and called the police. He reported to them that he observed a “suspicious character” wearing a red hoodie, walking in the area. The police told Mr. Zimmerman to stand down and wait for police to arrive. Instead of simply waiting for the police to arrive and investigate the situation, this vigilante took matters into his own hands. Zimmerman began following Tray, as he is known to family and friends, who asked Zimmerman why he was following him. An altercation ensued between Zimmerman and Tray. Zimmerman, armed with a 9 mm pistol and Tray, carrying an innocuous pack of Skittles (Devin’s and my favorite candy, by the way) and a can of tea, was shot to death, killing the hopes and dreams of a young man who wanted to go to college and become an aviation mechanic. Zimmerman also killed the joy that I’m sure Tray gave to his parents, family and friends. Zimmerman has claimed self-defense.
When a parent loses a child, their brain replays all the sweet (and sometimes not so sweet) memories that have been recorded through the years. Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin are remembering Tray’s favorite foods, favorite television shows, movies and music. They are remembering what made Tray laugh, or cry, or what made him angry. They’re remembering his relationship with his friends, schoolmates, and teachers. They’re remembering what Tray did to make them laugh or cry or make them angry or sad.
I’m reminded of my own son, pre-dreadlocks and pre- voice change, when he’d crawl into my lap as I sat in the rocking chair at night and ask me to “wock” him to sleep. This actually went on until he was about ten years old and I could barely hold him any longer as I could sit in his lap – he’d grown so big. My son and I have our own secret language. We often make up names for common things. Feet are ‘feekies.’ A found coin on the street is a ‘lucky day’. When I’m angry and wrinkles appear in the area between my eyebrows, he’ll ask “Mommy, why do you have your 'mean things' on?” When I look into the mirror, I see my son’s face reflected back at me as he looks so much like me. Tray favors his mother, Sybrina Fulton and I’m sure she sees his face, as well, when she looks in the mirror. I’m sure Sybrina and Tracy have similar memories of Tray. I’m sure it has to be difficult for Sybrina and Tracy to look around their respective homes and no longer see Tray coming through the door – maybe sometimes past his curfew; no longer hearing his laugher; no longer arguing with him as do the parents of any teen-ager.
To add insult to injury, not only was Tray murdered, but the police offer this family no closure by allowing Zimmerman, his murderer to walk around free. It has been reported that the shooting and the alleged argument can be heard on the 911 tape* of the call, but the police refuse to release the tape for public evaluation, which begs the question: Are they hiding something?
Additionally, Zimmerman has a troubled past. Neighbors of this gated community patrolled by Zimmerman complained at homeowner’s association meetings about his being overly aggressive. One such meeting was attended by Sanford’s Chief of Police, Bill Lee, who now seems to be suffering from amnesia in regards to the complaints about Zimmerman at this meeting. (Question is still begging)
According to Benjamin Crump, the attorney for Trayvon’s family, a suit has been filed against the Sanford Police Department to have the 911 tapes released. It has been reported that the tapes contain evidence of Zimmerman making comments about Trayvon’s race (racial profiling) and saying he was not going to let Trayvon get away, because “they always get away.” It has been reported that Zimmerman has made at least 50 calls to the police department in the past year.
Police initially told Tray’s family that Zimmerman said he acted in self-defense. Apparently, Florida is one of twenty-one states in the country that allows one to defend oneself without reprisal, using The Stand Your Ground Law, when one feels threatened. Most states require one to retreat if one feels threatened. The Stand Your Ground Law allows one to pursue a person if there is a perceived threat. Zimmerman may be able to claim defense because of this Stand Your Ground Law. Witnesses say Zimmerman was the aggressor and appeared intoxicated, according to ABC News. The police have asserted that Zimmerman has a “squeaky-clean” criminal past. However, public records show that Zimmerman was arrested in Orange County, FL in 2005 on charges of resisting arrest and battery on a law enforcement officer. Those charges were later dropped. (Please, baby, please!)
In an interview aired on the nationally syndicated Michael Baisden Show on March 14, Benjamin Crump, the family attorney for Tray said suit has been filed with the US Justice Department to have the 911 tapes* released. The 911 tapes* would reveal three things according to Crump: (1) why did Zimmerman think Tray was a suspicious person, (2) why Zimmerman disregarded police instruction, and (3) why this 28 year old, 200 pound man would attack a 17 year old; 140 pound unarmed kid with a bag of skittles and a canned iced tea.
Police Chief Lee has said that he doesn’t have enough evidence to arrest Zimmerman. (Oh, baby…) Arriving on the scene within 60 seconds of shooting, police found Martin’s 140-pound body lying face-down in a patch of grass, less than 100 feet away from his father’s home. Tray lived with his mother, Sybrina Fulton, in Miami, FL and was visiting his father in Sanford when he went out to the store – never to return.
“He was a typical teenager. He loved life,” Tracy Martin, Tray’s father, said. “But now, all the family wants is justice.” Tracy shared a story about Tray having saved his life when he was nine years old. Pity that young Tray could not have saved his own life from this murdering vigilante and self-appointed captain of this community’s neighborhood watch.
Dan Abrams ABC News legal analyst describes what he believes are the troubling facts of the case: (1) Zimmerman was told not to get out of his car or pursue the alleged suspect, but did, (2) Zimmerman’s statement that they always get away, (3) police putting words in [the witnesses’] mouths; (4) this issue is not only with George Zimmerman, but with the Sanford, FL Police Department.
Understandably the community of Sanford is outraged. As this story spreads across the country, many Blacks from communities across the nation are outraged as well, but it will take the combined efforts and outrage of Blacks, Whites, Latinos, Asians and everyone to become outraged and insist on Zimmerman’s arrest. This renegade could possibly get away with murder!
As a huge John Grisham fan I am reminded of the book-to-movie, A Time to Kill. I, a movie snob, read the book which contained a few minor differences from the movie. Tonya Hailey, a ten year old, Black girl, is brutally raped by two drunken white men who are a part of the good ol’ boy network in Tennessee. Beer-filled cans were hurled at Tonya’s helpless body after she had been raped, tearing the flesh from her body as the confused baby cried for mercy. Tonya was then hung from a tree with a rope around her neck and left for dead. The branch from which Tonya’s body hung snapped – sparing her life. Tonya has been beaten and mutilated so badly that she will never have children. Tonya’s rapists due to their legal connections in this small Tennessee town will possibly not be convicted of this rape.
Tonya’s father, Carl, is understandably distraught about the rape of his young daughter and he steals into the courtroom by way of a back entrance and shoots the two defendants dead at their arraignment. During Carl’s trial he claims innocence by reason of temporary insanity, because after all, what father wouldn’t have the same reaction to the rape of his daughter who will live her life with a host of physical and emotional scars? The jury is not convinced of Carl Hailey’s innocence by temporary insanity and believes his actions were premeditated, until one lone juror, a Black woman (the movie portrays this scene quite differently), and appeals to her fellow jurors. “Close your eyes and imagine the young rape victim, Tonya Hailey, as your daughter, niece, or young cousin with peaches and cream skin, blonde hair and blue eyes,” she implores them. The jury returns a verdict of not guilty, exonerating the father of young Tonya Hailey.
Perhaps some of us should close our eyes and imagine Trayvon Martin with peaches and cream skin, blond hair and blue eyes. Then, and only then, will we all begin to understand the heartache, the anguish, the pain, that so many Black parents feel when their children – our children, are gunned down senselessly. These murders happen in communities across the country every day, but rarely do we hear about it. And when we do hear about it, we feel that it’s they’re problem.
Could we possibly get the 911 tapes released* if we pictured Trayvon Martin, the young man who had aspirations to become an aviation mechanic – a young boy who wanted to repair aircraft, as a blond haired, blue-eyed young boy?
According to ABC News, the U.S. Justice Department and the Attorney General’s office are monitoring the situation. On Monday, March 26, at 5:00 pm at the Sanford, FL, City Hall, a City Commission meeting will be held. A coalition of community and political activists plan to march on Sanford, Fl at 4:00 pm before the start of this commission meeting. Organizers are ultimately hoping that Zimmerman will be indicted for this murder. “We are holding chief of police, Bill Lee responsible if the Sanford Police Department does not hold George Zimmerman responsible.”
So, Trayvon, young angel, you’re the airplane pilot now and you do the flying up in heaven. Down here on earth, the rest of us - your family, friends and an entire nation of frustrated, mad-as-hell-ain’t-gonna-take-it-no-more family of outraged citizens - will be the mechanics who will repair the malfunctioning engine of injustice that is the Sanford, FL legal system.
*The 911 police tapes were released over the weekend. Another 911 call was from a woman in the complex who was listening to a young man crying and calling for help, according to BET News. The cries were followed by a gunshot that could be heard on the recording. Amid waves of calls for an arrest to be made, law enforcement officials in the small suburb of Sanford turned the case over to the Florida State Attorney’s office. Zimmerman remains free and no charges have been filed against him. This case has received national attention.
The NAACP and the National Action Network have become heavily involved in protesting the shooting as well as calling for Zimmerman’s arrest. The NAACP, National Action Network (NAN), the Rev. Al Sharpton, NAN’s leader and the Michael Baisden Show family will hold a rally to call for justice in Orlando on Thursday, March 22 @7:00 p.m. at the First Shiloh Baptist Church, Sanford, FL regarding the case. Please visit Reverend Sharpton’s Facebook page, ‘Reverend Al Sharpton’ or visit www.blackamericaweb.com, or NAACP’s website, www.naacp.org; National Action Network’s site, www.nationalactionnetwork.net; Michael Baisden Show Facebook page, ‘Baisden Live’, or ‘Reverend Al Sharpton’ Facebook page for more information.
April 11, 2012 - Trayvon Martin was senselessly gunned down 44 days ago and his killer remains free. The special prosecutor assigned to the case is still undecided about whether or not Zimmerman should be charged for this murder. (still begging) This situation has sparked dialogue on several issues regarding race, privelege, a senseless law which exonerates murderers, community watch programs, gun control and a myriad of other topics have been brought to light and are being discussed amongst and between members of all races - which is a good thing.
I am reminded of a quote from one of my favorite movies which was released in theaters in 1996. Sleepers is based on a book of the same name written by Lorenze Carcarterra. (Believe it of not, I have not read this book.) This movie is chock full of hollywood heavyweights: Robert Dinero as a Catholic priest who smokes cigarettes, Brad Pitt and Dustin Hoffman as opposing attorneys, Kevin Bacon as a child-molesting security guard in a juvenile detention center, Billy Crudup as one of the molestation victims a journalist reporting on the trial, Minnie Driver as the girlfriend of the four childhood friends who were molested at the Wilkinson Home for Boys and Frank Medrano, a neighborhood store owner and sage who spoke a line in that film that I feel is so appropriate to this situation.
Medrano as Fat Mancho or Fatman as the four friends call him, says about America's legal justice system: "The street is the only thing that matters. Court is for uptown people with suits, money, lawyers with three names. If you got cash you can buy court justice. But on the street, justice has no price. She's blind where the judge sits but she's not blind out here. Out here the bitch got eyes."