Black History Month is now among us, and as we use this month to commemorate powerful leaders and trailblazers amongst the African American race, I believe this should also be a time to pay tribute to those who unfortunately lost their lives to unjustified crimes, and the power and strength of a community to grow a movement that rose from those tragedies.
The month of February also signifies Trayvon Martin’s birth, and even sadly, his death. He would have celebrated his 24th birthday today; however, unfortunately, his life was snatched away from him only shortly after his 17th birthday. The tragedy of Trayvon’s death also marks the beginning of one of the most powerful movements for Black Americans. Black Lives Matter became a powerful and earth-shattering force, because of such utter disregard for such an innocent Black life taken from this world so soon, simply because his appearance was perceived to be a “threat” and “suspicious”.
On February 26, the world was rocked by the news that Trayvon, an unarmed 17-year old child, was shot and killed because one man single man called the police on him for being what he assumed to be suspicious. Even after George Zimmerman was told NOT to follow him, he disobeyed and felt that he had to be responsible for an unnecessary “consequence” for Trayvon. He was doing absolutely nothing wrong, and what is painful is to know that no one on this earth expects to be so innocently living life, just for it to be taken away from you in a second.
In an even more outrageous occurrence, Zimmerman was acquitted of charges of second degree murder, based on what the jury felt was self-defense. It was because of this ruling, Black Lives Matter was created by three amazing women; Alicia Garza, Opal Tometi, and Patrisse Cullors. This organization was formed to take on a fight against institutionalized racism and police brutality against black people.
Sadly, since Trayvon’s death, there have been other tragic events to occur in the Black community, all riddled with the same questions, mainly beginning with “why?”
Why are people who are doing absolutely nothing to lose “threat or fear” being killed, and officers using that lie to justify their actions? Why is it that families of these victims constantly let down by a justice system that does not see blatant crimes being committed?
Unfortunately, Trayvon’s untimely passing was truly an unnecessary and jarring tragedy; however, it has created such a response from communities that have now shed a gleaming light on injustice everywhere, and brought the African American community together to take a stand against what would become a widespread and unfortunate epidemic on the Black community.
Even nearly 7 years later, the circumstances surrounding Trayvon’s murder and other murders since are still haunting and even give some pause to doing things that felt like normal innocent behavior in the past. Walking down your neighborhood street becomes a hesitant decision, wearing a hoodie may cause sideways glances, seeing a police officer behind you makes you wonder if they will notice the color of your skin as a reason to pull you over. It’s like living your life walking on eggshells; not knowing whether your presence alone is causing someone “fear for their life.” This is our reality, and on most days some of our biggest and most pressing fears; to be misjudged, falsely accused, and paying an unnecessary price for the color of our skin.
In this month, it is important to reflect on history; and in order to do that, we cannot forget the movement that was sparked and ignited due to this unfortunate situation.
Happy Birthday, Trayvon. We will continue to strive for the justice you deserved.