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.

  • Share
  • Read Later

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.

73 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.

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.

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'.

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.


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.

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.

Destroyed
Destroyed

No amount of pretzel logic and smooth talking can change the fact that Zimmerman is innocent and rightfully so. This case had nothing to do with race. When idiots in the mass media can demand an arrest it makes our justice system look like a joke.

Zimmerman deserves to be innocent, and not to be charged by a bunch of emotional basket cases in the public arena.

Buckeyegirl
Buckeyegirl

regardless of what your race is - how about raising your kids right, without any feeling of entitlement!!! this had nothing to do with race, Zimmerman was the instigator, but, Trayvon fed into it, both punks!!!! teach words can't hurt you, walk away, right or wrong, walk away, you can be "dead to right" is it worth it?!!!! Obviously, NOT!!!! if you are underage take it to an adult, don't confront yourself - but, sad as it is, most people would defend themselves, you don't go to jail for your "mouth" or most of American would be behind bars - and leave these jurors alone, based on the law, this was their verdict!!!!  Oh, and I was raised poor, etc., it didn't define me, nor did it encourage doing unlawful acts, plain and simple, and the only race issue I seen was when Rachel used the endearing term "CRACKER", WOW, I guess we chose certain words that benefit us at the time with no consequence, but, it does show attitude!!! Oh, and since Obama is getting involved, we can all line up, I want justice for my older brother who died 2 years ago after being a good Samaritan and had his skull crushed in (lived a horrible painful life that killed him!!!!!) by 4 thugs, yes "thugs", in this case they happen to be "hispanic", this(Zimmerman/Martin) wasn't a hate crime, but, there are many out there!!!!!!!

Destroyed
Destroyed

Zimmerman was a block watch captain doing his job. I'd want someone like him guarding my neighborhood.

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.

Destroyed
Destroyed

The apologist victim culture at its finest.