I Am Still Trayvon Martin

As the George Zimmerman verdict loomed, the author spent several days with 60 African-American boys and saw the sting of their lives being cheapened.

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Since calls for the prosecution of George Zimmerman began over a year ago, and since George Zimmerman’s acquittal over the weekend, the slogan “We are all Trayvon Martin” has been a recurring rallying cry for justice. But to identify with the Miami teen is one thing. It is quite another to spend the last five days with 60 boys who could easily have been him.

Last week, the National Sigma Beta Club Foundation, a youth-mentoring auxiliary of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, gave its biennial Leadership Conference at Temple University and as an advisor to five Brooklyn kids involved in the program, I attended the event and brought them with me. Aged 10 to 18, the boys in the program came from cities all around the nation where all too often black males are the victims of violent crime, many times lethal. This program is our attempt to turn young men away from such a fate, while motivating them toward better options.

As we coached them on career choices, professional appearance, team-building, and college preparation, I continued to monitor the trial the entire time, having covered it for most of the past year.

Hanging over our heads was something that would affect us as black males, a verdict that would seemingly send a message: either Zimmerman would be convicted and we would be relieved that finally justice had come, or he would be acquitted and a jury would tell these kids once again that their lives are cheap.

To our disgust, the latter proved true. The same way juries in the past had done for Emmett Till three generations ago; the same way they did in the case of others from Amadou Diallo, to Sean Bell to Oscar Grant— whose death was chronicled in the new movie Fruitvale Station.

(MORE: Was George Zimmerman Telling the Truth?)

When the verdict was read, it felt as though Martin had been convicted for his own death instead of Zimmerman, and along with him, the boys in the group who sat silently and in shock over the news. Suddenly, they were no longer loud, rambunctious kids whose affinity for 2 Chainz and A$AP Rocky would color other people’s opinions of them. Instead, they were vulnerable, quiet, confused.

A few of the boys were from Miami and one had gone to the same high school as Trayvon Martin. He began to cry, lamenting that Trayvon did not deserve to die. The other kids circled him, and as he opened up to express his fears, the other followed as well. And these kids, all potential Barack Obamas, and all potential Trayvon Martins, became very scared. As advisors, we felt powerless to protect them.

In communities where murders of black men often go unprosecuted, police fail to get arrests because of lack of cooperation among potential witnesses—the infamous, unwritten “no snitching” rule.  But why come forward and go to the police when your friend, your son, your brother isn’t likely to get justice? The George Zimmerman acquittal leaves these kids with no options, and continues to put them at terrible risk.

As the boys prepared to make their way back to their communities Sunday morning, the advisors, all of us Phi Beta Sigmas for at least 15 years, some working law enforcement, others educators, myself a journalist, herded them out of their dormitory.

I watched them as they left Temple’s campus, remembering that I was once them. I was once a black teen with murder victim statistics leaning against me. I remembered the days that I’d spent as Trayvon Martin myself.

Then I remembered that I’m still Trayvon Martin.

55 comments
sirotisofliver
sirotisofliver

How about, I AM STILL CHRISTOPHER CERVINI.  

Will the Zimmerman lynch mob do the right thing and go after Roderick Scott too. Or is their outrage driven by other forces?

BobR13
BobR13

You're not Trayvon Martin. Nobody is somebody else. Collectivist nonsense.

kahn666
kahn666

so... what you are telling us is...you ...well..you know... like little black boys?

Joev@456
Joev@456

Roderick Scott. Google it. The amount of hypocrisy and idiocy in responding to this situation is ridiculous.

j45ashton
j45ashton

Everybody should be looking for just 2 things in this case:  equal treatment by police across the country, equal treatment by DAs across the country for everybody.  The fact that there was no arrest for 6 weeks, the fact that the DA made an embarrassing inept case for murder 2 (clearly unprovable) instead of manslaughter shows the differences that need to stop.

ThisAngryAmerican
ThisAngryAmerican

Mr Gray, each of us are responsible for our action. The 60 black kids you spent the weekend with couldn't possibly be Trayvon unless they chose the same action as Trayvon, which ended badly for him. You, the National Sigma Beta foundation, NAACP, etc. must stop seeing these kids as victims. It is not helpful to tell young people they are helpless and that their lives are at someone else's will.

There can not be VICTIMIZER without your consent.

schwettyjohnson
schwettyjohnson

I don't care how another mediocre Time author feels.

I care about what you can prove with EVIDENCE.

The author seems to be saying that Zimmerman should have let Martin continue to bash his head into concrete so some kids wouldn't feel bad about themselves.

GabrieleBerghammer
GabrieleBerghammer

reading many of the comments, i am totally shocked at the level of racism that is still in so many white american's hearts and minds... hard to believe.

DavidPittelli
DavidPittelli

"with 60 boys who could easily have been him."

Are you saying that all 60 boys, being black, were capable of knocking a guy down, jumping on him, and bashing his head into the pavement? Racist.

CougarMelodram
CougarMelodram

(Britney Spears should be Trayvon Martin's spokeswomb, spokesvagina)

"Oops!  I Did It Again"

In one year, Trayvon Martin had TWICE been suspended from school for offenses that should have gotten him arrested – once for getting caught with a burglary tool and a dozen items of female jewelry, the second time for getting caught with marijuana and a marijuana pipe.

"I'm Not That Innocent"

I'll say.

http://trayvon.n1663r.com/

NHThinker
NHThinker

"In communities where murders of black men often go unprosecuted, police fail to get arrests because of lack of cooperation among potential witnesses—the infamous, unwritten “no snitching” rule."

Madison Gray fails to completely describe the no snitching rule that is rampant in said communities.

The "no snitching rule" includes expectation of delivering beatdowns on ANYONE that is not minding their "own" business.  Sadly, this is the best explanation as to why Trayvon would attack Zimmerman- if he actually did.

http://sayword79.blogspot.com/2011/11/no-snitching.html

http://www.blogtalkradio.com/saywordradio/2011/11/17/no-snitching

skateman
skateman

A highly irresponsible article by Madison Gray.  It appears that he is teaching his kids to be irresponsible and to view themselves as victims.

A more instructive article is here:

http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/frame_game/2013/07/trayvon_martin_verdict_racism_hate_crimes_prosecution_and_other_overreactions.html?utm_source=tw&utm_medium=sm&utm_campaign=button_toolbar

Gray provides a pitiable example of wacky conflation: "In communities where murders of black men often go unprosecuted, police fail to get arrests because of lack of cooperation among potential witnesses—the infamous, unwritten 'no snitching' rule.  But why come forward and go to the police when your friend, your son, your brother isn’t likely to get justice? The George Zimmerman acquittal leaves these kids with no options, and continues to put them at terrible risk.

The murders of black men, over 90% of which are by other black men, has nothing whatever to do with the Zimmerman-Martin case.  Perhaps Gray should be teaching his mentees to try to de-escalate confrontations, or TO CALL 911 when they think they are facing trouble.  Note, Trayvon Martin did NOT call 911.

Perhaps Gray should be teaching his mentees about how a good justice system works.  That is, even though George Zimmerman might not be "innocent," there was insufficient evidence to "railroad" him into prison.  That is, for all we KNOW, either Zimmerman or Trayvon Martin threw the first punch or made the first real physically threatening gesture.  (I say "real" because Zimmerman mentioned reaching for his cell phone.  Well, was Zimmerman actually reaching for his gun?)  In our American system (acknowledged by almost everyone to be the best, even if not perfect), criminal guilt may not be proved on what might have occurred.

The closing arguments in the Zimmerman-Martin case demonstrated that the prosecution just did not, and knew from the beginning that it did not, have the evidence with which a jury should find beyond a reasonable doubt that Zimmerman's shooting Martin was not in self defense.  (In an HLN interview, de la Rionda acknowledged that state attorneys have an ethical duty to only bring cases that they can prove beyond a reasonable doubt.  Let me add that that ethical duty relates to what can be proved to a reasonable jury, not to a jury that could be swayed by public pressure or demagoguery.)  I say the prosecution knew it could not make its case because every prosecution witness provided testimony that the prosecution knew was coming.

Perhaps Madison Gray should be teaching his mentees about the Roderick Scott-Christopher Cervini case in Rochester, NY, almost a "reverse" case in which a black man shot a 16 year old white male that the black man said charged toward him yelling that he (i.e. the shooting victim) was going to get the black man who was holding the gun.  The jury found that the evidence did not refute beyond a reasonable doubt that the black man was acting in self defense, and acquitted him.  

Note that the family of the youth that was killed felt that justice was not done:
"How can this happen to a beautiful, sweet child like that?” asked one of the youth's family members. “All he wanted to do was go home. And then for them to say, he was saying, 'Please don't kill me. I'm just a kid,' and he just kept on shooting him."

See: http://rochester.ynn.com/content/top_stories/490926/jury-finds-roderick-scott-not-guilty/

Madison Gray, I think you owe your mentees a big apology for your failure as a mentor.

pendragon05
pendragon05

Maybe they just need to stop hanging out on street corners and apply themselves in school and at work.

JohnDavidDeatherage
JohnDavidDeatherage

Don't want to be Trayvon Martin? Stay in school, avoid fighting, avoid drugs, don't try and buy a pistol (at 17), don't steal.  And last but not least, don't pick a fight (for any reason) with a man with a gun.  Some mistakes you don't get to make twice...

rburns1683
rburns1683

This is going to only get worse.    Black unemployment is twice that of whites and black teens have little or no chance of any sort of employment especially in the inner cities.   What in heaven's name do you expect to happen with them?   That they will sit quietly at home watching TV or listening to their favorite music.  NO!    They won't and neither would I.   Males that age are mostly high energy and unlike white peers  they are unlikely to stay in their room and stay on the computer for hours and hours even if they have one.   We do almost nothing as a society to address this and society is going to pay a big price for the neglect.    We "ain't" seen nutin' yet.    Sure, a few black people have done well but the vast majority have not and now the economic paradigm has shifted meaning that they (and poor whites) are going to be forced into ever increasing desperation.   

MariaCU91
MariaCU91

Welcome to the real world. I am so tired of hearing about black slavery and white guilt, blah blah blah. Women were and still are sold into slavery every day. We had to fight for our right to vote and be counted as equals as well. We are still paid less than men for doing the same damn job. And every time I see a man get off on a light sentence or no sentence after beating, raping, or killing a woman, it strikes at the center of my heart too. Welcome to life where everything doesn't go your way just because you have a sad story to tell.

cjh2nd
cjh2nd

@madisonjgray

from webster's: 

justice: noun: the administration of law; especially : the establishment or determination of rights according to the rules of law or equity

did he not undergo a trial? did the jury not determine and establish that he was within his rights according to the rules of the law?  so please, enlighten me, how was justice not served?  just because you didn't get the outcome you'd hoped for doesn't mean justice wasn't served.  you're calling for revenge. for pay back. to stick it to the man. the one thing you are not calling for is justice. 

RickyGee
RickyGee

so true these all white cast told the world that black people life has no value

TarquinQuake
TarquinQuake

The court provided justice, Mr. Gray.  It allowed a highly-motivated prosecutor's office the opportunity to present every scrap of evidence it could to convict Zimmerman of something and it failed.

Those in the black community who call for justice actually want revenge.  They want Zimmerman to suffer punishment, humiliation, death even though the facts in the case could not persuade six women who themselves are so fearful of the consequences of being identified as jurors that they wish to remain anonymous. Everyone knows what your calls for justice mean.

Openminded1
Openminded1

@GabrieleBerghammer hard to believe because you only date black men, blacks are more racist then whites by far. get real and do not let your sex life diminish your brain cells.

tjb1080
tjb1080

@pendragon05 doesn't matter because when we do (and we DO) people like you still make ass backwards generalizations like this.

tjb1080
tjb1080

@JohnDavidDeatherage Why do you think Trayvon picked the fight? Zimmerman got out of HIS car, Zimmerman was the one to pursue.  GZ was told to not approach. TM had no reason to answer to GZ. He was NOT the law. He was a stranger.  I sure hope you don't tell you kids that if a stranger approaches you, it's ok to engage them.  Damn.

Openminded1
Openminded1

@rburns1683 Maybe if they stop using the race card everytime and quit listening to big mouth trouble makers like Rev Jackson and dummy AL who do nothing for blacks except make money off them and laugh behind our backs. How do we look when we riot and burn down our own neighborhoods. There is more black on black crime then whites killing blacks look at chicago I do not see big mouth AL saying anything about that or the other half white racist commenting on that in the white house .

walkingliberty
walkingliberty

@rburns1683 

".....We "ain't" seen nutin' yet.    Sure, a few black people have done well but the vast majority have not and now the economic paradigm has shifted meaning that they (and poor whites) are going to be forced into ever increasing desperation."

   Not certain what "we ain't seen nutin' yet' means; nor, am I certain what kind of dialect that was meant to reflect. But the insipidly ignorant statement: "Sure, a few black people have done well but the vast majority have not," is the reason the gulf is so deep and so wide between black and white. The media spotlight too often is turned on the underclass as representative of all of black people in the United States. That depiction is as distorted and as much a lie as the self-serving fiction George Zimmerman's lawyers conveyed to a Florida courtroom about the nature of the confrontation between corpulent n'er do well and the 17-year-old kid en route to a condo to watch a basketball game. 

Openminded1
Openminded1

@almonjer YOU have a picture of a white woman on your avatar but i bet you are a black guy or whiye woman who is fat but love black meat. you do not fool anyone dummy.

newbmax
newbmax

@MariaCU91 : Yes. Its just life, and neither blacks NOR women should complain about it with their sad stories and constant whining about nothing. Stop complaining, lay-dees. I am tired it (not really)! I am sick of women who whine about rape and abuse. Who among us really gives a curvy crap about any of it? If women don't wish to be raped, then they ought not put themselves in rape situations. Rape is just life. Deal with it.

Maria - your post is heartless and stupid. Blacks and women are enduring serious pain and disadvantage due to the historical mistreatment of both groups. To whine about the situation against women while at the same time dismissing the very painful situation against blacks is hypocritical and dumb.

Openminded1
Openminded1

@cjh2nd It was served it is the media bull and people like rev al and Obama the president of the united states opening his mouth about this case caused more media and black out cry he is a racist under the cover of is office. No president in history has ever commented on a case like this and I have been around since Truman. All he should of said it was tragic not if he had a son he would look like TM. No kidding but I bet he would not be a punk because white obama grew up in the white world in Hawaii there is no Black hood there are very few blacks. And do not mention Chicago he was an adult by then in college etc. He should be more concerned with black on black crime.

dbrunover1
dbrunover1

@RickyGee Read the whole post not just the hate spew ..  "We has blacks have to go back to the drawing table and hatch out a plan and figure out how can we re-educate ourselves so that we can become more prosperous." .. I think that can be applied to all youth of today with their entitlement mentality ..

Openminded1
Openminded1

@RickyGee No white person said that dummy quit making things up like Rev Al that is why white people think we are a joke we so stupid we riot in the streets when we do not like the results or if  it does not go the black way. I never see white people riot and burn down there hood . When Oj got away with murder did you see whites rioting. wake up my brothers.

tjb1080
tjb1080

@TarquinQuake the charges were low balled from the beginning.  This should have been a textbook manslaughter charge. Those in power didn't want to try this anyway so they used charges they knew they couldn't prove.  2nd degree murder was too high a burden and they knew that. They didn't have 2nd degree evidence. 

walkingliberty
walkingliberty

@TarquinQuake  

at least one of the jurors wants a book contract and whatever flows from it: fame, fortune -- fifteen minutes of fame. who would want to read a book about a highly publicized and televised trial anyway? methinks some people seek their riches in the wrong venues. she also sounds not too bright.

GabrieleBerghammer
GabrieleBerghammer

@NHThinker @GabrieleBerghammer you don't expect me to read TODAY, do you? 

also, you may have noticed that i was referring to the very specific individuals posting their messages of scorn and hatred right here. i was not referring to ALL americans - just as, i would hope, you are not referring to ALL austrians. racism is despicable in any shape or form.

what you seem to be saying, though, is that racism is OK - just because it exists everywhere?

finally, with the US publically and officially making itself out to be the world's leading nation - and a defender of liberty and justice at that - don't be surprised that it's being watched closely by people(s) around the world and from across all oceans.

and again - be a man and disclose your name, 'thinker'.

GabrieleBerghammer
GabrieleBerghammer

@schwettyjohnson the words being spoken are full of hatred. no more evidence is needed. plus - hiding your true names and faces - you are cowards, too.

schwettyjohnson
schwettyjohnson

Oh please, call the wahmbulance.

Want some cheese to go with that whine?

Openminded1
Openminded1

@tjb1080 @pendragon05 THey are not ass backward generalizations. YOUR role models are all the wrong people, like Gansta rappers, guys with there pants to there knees, drug dealers with nice cars, O J simpson , and black who hate whitey crackers.

Openminded1
Openminded1

@tjb1080 @JohnDavidDeatherage he was not a kid he was 17 year old white hater and was street wise. stranger danger is for little kids not people who can be tried as adults in a court of law.

Openminded1
Openminded1

@tjb1080 @JohnDavidDeatherage Getting out of the car means nothing dummy he was neighborhood watch that is what they do. Tm palyed games with the Cracker and circled back and confronted GZ. TM love to fight and hated whites. he was not a little kid he was 17 and street wise punk get real.

NHThinker
NHThinker

@GabrieleBerghammer @NHThinker Actually, not everything has been said.. you have yet to answer whether you post in Austria about Austrian racists.

BTW, Almost no one in the US uses "publically", several dictionaries have dropped it: for someone that does translations, I would think you would be predisposed to use the common form.

NHThinker
NHThinker

@GabrieleBerghammer@NHThinker

"what you seem to be saying, though, is that racism is OK - just because it exists everywhere?"

Exactly where did I say that?  Maybe you have a reading comprehension problem or just plain irrational.

All I did was ask if you post on Austrian stories with the same vitriol that you use on some Americans.  A question that you chose not to answer... I'll guess you just love to put your two cents into stories that don't reflect badly on Austrian.

"with the US publically and officially making itself out to be the world's leading nation"

(do you mean "publicly"?  Who do you think qualifies as "the US" as opposed to "the Austria"?) 

Please stick your Austrian nose in the air a bit higher, we can't see the top of your sinuses yet.