Trayvon Martin and America's Justice Gap

ROXBURY, Mass.—Less than 24 hours after George Zimmerman was acquitted of murdering Trayvon Martin, hundreds of Boston residents rallied in Dudley Square to seek justice for the slain teen. As mothers wrapped their arms around their sons, youth held makeshift signs, and men wore hoodies, they chanted in unison: “The people united will never be defeated.” Following each chant, local politicians and community leaders urged the crowd to take a stand against injustices in America.

“We have the power and the responsibility to challenge racism, homophobia, sexism, all forms of abuse and neglect and exploitation of humans beings. That is our job!” said Charles Yancey, the longest-running member of the Boston City Council and a mayoral candidate.

Councilor Yancey spoke of a power that rally participants across the nation were uniting together to try to take back from the judicial system, which they believe failed Trayvon Martin and his family on July 13. Many young black men stood in Dudley Square with heavy hearts, disappointed in what they believe is a broken system.

“I think the justice system was created for a certain group of people, ” said 22-year-old Miles Prower, “A black woman can shoot off a gun in self-defense and get 20 years and a lighter-skin man can shoot a black man and get off scott free. That is America for you.”

Community activist Robert Traynham, who is 77, has seen America at its best and worst. Traynham was born in West Virginia during a time which he described as extremely racist, and he experienced first-hand many of the injustices that later sparked the Civil Rights Movement.

“The worst injustice was when I had to sit at the back of the bus. When you went in the back of the bus, you had to get up when white people came on and had to move to the back of the bus. They had a gate that would push you back,” said Traynham.

Traynham is a member of Team Solidarity, the voice of United School Bus Union Workers, one of the organizations behind the programming and recruitment for the Trayvon Martin rally in Roxbury.

“We wanted the young kids to step up and be political,” said Traynham.

There were many young people in attendance, including 20-year-old Benjamin Hitchcock, a college student who didn’t hesitate to hitch a ride from suburban Reading, Massachusetts to a predominately black neighborhood. He wanted to raise his voice and march with peers that didn’t look like him or share the same experiences but who shared similar views regarding the Trayvon Martin case.

“As a young person who has spent a lot of time walking around paranoid suburban streets with a hoodie on, I’m very fortunate that I was not shot dead, potentially because of the fact that I am white,” said Hitchcock.

Although Hitchcock is on the fence about whether or not race played a role in the Trayvon Martin case, he still believes that the verdict was unjust.

“I don’t really know [if race played a role]. I would like to think it didn’t, but it’s hard for me to imagine if Trayvon was white and George Zimmerman was black that it would have played out this way,” Hitchcock explained.

Another attendee, Miles Prower, said the rally was poorly organized and didn’t reach out to enough local organizations.

“The only people here are police, politicians, white people and random black people that either heard about it through a Facebook post or drove past and saw it,” said Prower.

“Yes, there are different shades of people here,” he continued, “but the majority of people here are white, and they’re not from here. They’re shouting ‘I am Trayvon Martin’ and they’re not.”

The rally ended in a march from Dudley Square to Ruggles Station in a fire of activism that consumed stereotypes about race, gender, religion, sexual preference, class and age, if only momentarily. However, as the diverse crowd marched down Tremont Street yelling “we are Trayvon Martin,” Arthur Veale, 23, found it hard to believe that a small-scale march and chanting could actually change the judicial system.

“You must remember that the system will always be here. It was here before we got here and it will be here before all of you die. We must shake it to its foundation,” Veale said while he addressed the crowd before the march.

After he left the rally, Veale decided not to participant in the march. Instead, he walked on the sidewalk watching protesters.

“Everyone says that they are Trayvon,” said Veale. “I’m not Trayvon; I’m Arthur Veale.”

–Nakia Hill

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