Minneapolis Southwest High School student Laye Kwamina reads his poem “Letter To My Unborn Black Child” at the Human Rights Day Rally on December 6, 2014. His poem, laden with references to violence against blacks such as Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown and Eric Garner, held the crowd spellbound. In it, he contrasted the stark realities of life for blacks in America with the unending love parents have for their children. He read, “Dear unborn black child, Don’t jaywalk. Don’t eat sandwiches. Continue Reading
On Wednesday, August 28, 2013, the Wilder Foundation’s Wilder Center for Communities played host to what was referred to as a “community conversation,” where members of the Twin Cities community were invited to listen to and partake in a discussion about what impact the aftermath of the death of Trayvon Martin and the subsequent verdict in the Andrew Zimmerman trial will have on how young people — particularly young people of color and specifically African American boys — are taught and raised by those who care about them. The event, billed as unFRAMED: The Lessons of the Zimmerman Trial, was organized by Barbara “Bob-e” Epps and Dave Ellis of the Black Men’s Early Childhood Project (BMECP).
“Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” – Matthew 25:40We are a nation divided.Nothing illustrates that more than the cascading protests, rallies, and ardent cries for justice in the aftermath of the “not guilty” verdict in the George Zimmerman trial. Those outcries and the concurrent spirit of indifference on the part of many privileged Americans tell us all we need to know about how far we still have to go before we see each other the way God would expect.Indeed, the murder of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed teenager, painfully reminds African Americans as a community that in spite of possessing the unsurpassable worth granted by Christ, black life is without value to the broader society.While many of us expected to hear words of comfort, hope, and a renewed call for love and justice in our respective houses of worship, instead most of us encountered a resounding immoral silence. Although this silence has been most pronounced and identifiable recently, it is not new. It has been a hallmark of our hasty acceptance of a supposedly post-racial nation, and has contributed to the suffering of the most vulnerable, and “the least of these” within our society.Poor people in general suffer from limited opportunity and access to basic necessities. However, poor boys and men of color – especially African Americans – not only suffer in ways that degrade their humanity, but they are systematically excluded from equitable participation within our society, are denied access to equal opportunity, and are blamed for conditions that have been constructed to disadvantage them.These young men are often feared, viewed with suspicion, criminalized, harassed, and treated with contempt. Continue Reading
Last week a Florida jury acquitted George Zimmerman, the man who shot and killed Trayvon Martin. As a father of two black boys, a leader in this community, and a citizen of this nation, I am saddened and deeply concerned by the verdict in this case. For those of us who wanted to see justice served, we feel betrayed and outraged. This verdict illustrates how the deep-rooted ugliness of bias can be masked in a system that rarely protects those who it was not designed to serve. When you consider the many advancements we have witnessed in our lifetime, it is disappointing that our country is not as far ahead as we would hope. These actions confirm our work is far from over and we must continue to persist every day to achieve equality for all.
Almost a week after the verdict was passed down in the Trayvon Martin case I was still debating whether to write this piece. So much has already been said. I am excited to see debates around racism springing up online, at the grocery store, and over dinner with friends. These frank conversations about race are long overdue.I decided to write this piece as my reflection to the reactions I have heard and read. For however weak my words are, they are still the strongest tool I have.In my circles, I have heard countless cries to “do something” about racism in the U.S. My friends, family, neighbors and co-workers are outraged and sad about the verdict.In considering reactions to the Trayvon Martin case, I want to set aside conversations of right and wrong. Continue Reading
Organizers of Monday’s downtown rally in front of the Hennepin County Government Center estimated the peaceful crowd of all ages and ethnicities at between 3,500 and 4,000 people.“I’m supposed to be here with my people, elbow to elbow and cheek to cheek, side by side,” proclaimed local poet Tish Jones, who was among a host of speakers addressing the crowd before marching down South Sixth Street to Hennepin Avenue and returning to the Center. Another protest is scheduled for Saturday as part of a national day of protest over the Zimmerman verdict. (For more information about Monday’s demonstration, go to the MSR website at www.spokesman-recorder.com.)Similar marches are being held all across the country. And despite last weekend’s jury verdict, the national NAACP has requested that the U.S. Justice Department resume its investigation in the Trayvon Martin murder case. After the not-guilty verdict was handed down last Saturday, over 100,000 persons signed within a 90-minute span an NAACP petition that the organization posted on its website.“The Department of Justice can still address the violation of Trayvon’s most fundamental civil right — the right to life — and we are urging them to do so,” declared NAACP President Ben Jealous after the trial that lasted three weeks. Continue Reading
[Disclaimer: As a white male it is virtually impossible for me to fully understand and appreciate the burden of being a black male in this society. Even though I’ve been arrested and in jail and prison, lived in the inner city and rural South, I can only approximate what that experience is because I was always a phone call away from “connections” to the world of privilege and (somewhat limited) power – unlike Travyon Martin and others like him.] Continue Reading
There are notable successes: after 300,000 people signed a change.org petition opposing Bank of America’s enactment of a monthly fee on its debit cards, the bank dropped them. Although thepetitionsite.com petition asking that charges be dropped against a woman named Julie Bass for growing vegetables in her front yard garnered a relatively modest 31,000 signatures, it was enough to persuade Oak Park, Michigan authorities to drop the case.According to CNN, more than one million people have signed NAACP and MoveOn.org petitions in the wake of George Zimmerman’s “not guilty” verdict in the Trayvon Martin killing. Both petitions ask that the U.S. Department of Justice file federal civil rights charges against Zimmerman.Overall, how successful are online petitions? Are there petitions that are legally binding? I’m working on a story about online petitions to be published within the next few weeks. Continue Reading