Chevon’s notes on Trayvon Martin’s case

George Zimmerman and the Stand Your Ground law

My thoughts on this particular part of the incident are direct.  George Zimmerman, if he pursued someone, was not standing his ground but practicing escalation.  I do not think the law applies in this case.  I am not alone.  Many people agree,  including the elected official who originally sponsored the Stand Your Ground legislation!

But Zimmerman is Latino.  He can’t be racist in who he perceives as a threat.

I took Latin American and Afro Carribbean classes and if I recall correctly, many German war criminals fled to Latin America to avoid jail after World War II.  It is not unthinkable for any South American to have a German last name like Zimmerman.  So stop letting that confuse you. 

Furthermore, Zimmerman is Peruvian.  While this may seem anecdotal at first, two of my best friends growing up have parents from Peru.  One of them even worked for the UN and admitted racist thoughts against darkskinned people.  And the man is a scholar by the way.  He knows logically that it is wrong, but in Peru, as in many places, darker skinned people were kept down economically and socially.  Then turn to crime, then the racist self-fulfilling prophecy that “dark skinned people are bad” continues. 

My other Peruvian friend has family that gets upset when he gets dark in the sun.  He tans more easily than they do and it makes the elders very uncomfortable to see his skin darken each summer.  No, I am not kidding.  This is not really anecdotal here is some research on it from UCLA’s website.

Geraldo Rivera says Wearing  a hoodie while black is asking to get killed.

(photo via fox)

This sounds preposterous I know.  But there is a kernel of sanity to what Geraldo is basing this misguided statement on.  He is lumping hoodies in with sagging pants, loose-laced shoes and other prison inspired fashion.  As a suburban kid listening to Mobb Deep, Boot Camp Clik and Wu Tang, I was told to pull my pants up too.  I was told not to wear my clothing so big.

Finally I asked my uncle why he was always nagging me about my clothes.  He told me much of the style I was emulating arose from people who had been in and out of prison.  He said baggy clothes conceal weapons.  

Pants without belts are due to belts being confiscated in jail.  He looked at my sneakers and told me the lack of laces on a shoe is because prisoners could use shoelaces to choke themselves or others.

I was shocked but I realized, yes, many of the artists I listened to were living a very hard life that included jail.  Did I want to emulate that?  Not so much.  Well I wanted to identify with the diaspora but I didn’t like the idea of looking like I was wearing jail fashions. 

So I sized my clothes down a bit, reinserted my laces and continued mixing  the styles those groups popularized into my other attire.  Like wearing the ski goggles on my head.  Very Ghostface.  Not very “jail.”

The problem I have is Geraldo’s oversimplification of what is really a deeper issue.  Hoodies are the least of it.  The overarching jail fashions that he was probably thinking of are a direct result of how many people are being sent to jail!!

If black men were graduating from high school (very few do) and were becoming educated and gainfully employed or self employed at the rates of other groups- we would see different fashions popularized in urban centers. 

If you are in a neighborhood known for gun violence due to poverty and drug wars, I bet… you probably don’t have an interest in wearing tighter pants.  I know some who have to LOOK like they pack heat just to make it home some nights because someone is always watching.

I challenge Geraldo to use his show as a platform to address the over criminalization of our people in the cities before he superficially condemns them to death by firing squad over fashion choices.

Oh pardon me.  This country even aims to put black people in jail for fashion choices.  Anything to avoid addressing the underlying issue of discrimination against black males.

The Million Hoodie rally in Union Square, NY

I went to the rally because I see my little brother’s face in Trayvon’s face. Literally.  And it is sharply disturbing every day.   I also went because I have seen similar injustice dealt to my eldest brother, and all of my boys.   And it sickens me if a sick person can be moved to action – that would be me. 

I believe in supporting groundswell in landmark cases that can change laws or change minds.  I believe publicizing and organizing around high profile cases can result in lasting and overarching change.  I do not discourage the daily fight for justice anywhere in the world at any given time. 

I simply appreciate as well, the significance of high profile cases where the facts are in our favor and a legal precedent can be set based on challenging and striking down an existing piece of unfair legislation.

There is nothing wrong with that.  Landmark cases change the course of history so join on in if you feel passionate about a case and do not let naysayers stop you.

Now that you understand why the case is interesting to me and why I attended the rally,  I will share some more thoughts on what happened in the square, what pundits are saying and what I think about the case.  Thanks for letting me share with you.

In The Square

The crowd was  mixed.  However the most astounding thing were the age ranges.  People of every age were there and the amount of black men who showed up to represent themselves left me feeling proud.  They filled the square and blocked the adjacent streets.  The protestors were also peaceful.  I chose one spot in which to stand.  you had to get situated because moving through the crowd was very difficult).  

As I stood there.  I recognized 4 people to my front side and back.  Yes.  Four people I know and respect were standing right next to me at a huge rally.  If you ever need confirmation from the universe that you are right were you belong- seeing the faces of those you respect will confirm it.

The co-opt people were out there in full effect.  Communists, occupy wall street fringe folks were all out there.  Two of them elbowed their way into the spot where I was standing and shoved some papers in my friends face.. as thought we weren’t listening to a speech at a rally.

I didn’t appreciate all the fringe activity as we came to address a historical problem that still haunts the whole country- but it was their right to attend so I just turned away.

The speeches were inspiring and energizingJumaane Williams, the Brooklyn councilman who was harassed and arrested at the West Indian Labor day parade spoke.  As did the mother and father of Trayvon.  They were so thankful for the signatures and marchers as well as anyone who helped spread the word. 

The quote from Trayvon’s mom that stuck with me.  She said that ultimately, it’s not a black and white thing.  It is a RIGHT AND WRONG THING> which is true.  It’s WRONG to shoot black children on sight after chasing them down for no reason.  But it keeps happening so we have to work to RIGHT the WRONG(S).

What stood out most at the rally, to me was a black elder I stood next to the entire time.   He was visibly uncomfortable with the amount of tweeting I did during the rally.  I could tell.  He spent moments staring at me and my phone with a look that said he wanted to ask me to stop. 

But he never intervened about the phone.  Perhaps he began to understand that the phone that distracts a teenager – connects a young adult to social causes. 

When the last speaker finished, he said “Continue to pray”

The man next to me finally had an outburst. 

“Don’t just pray!  VOTE!”  He yelled out into the silence.  I agreed with him but (if more on a local level than on a national one) but no one cheered.  Perhaps they were stunned that after Trayvon’s dad asked us to put our hoods up and pray, that someone’s voice could ring out like that over the crowd.  Either way, the mic check started right after his outburst.

I turned to him.  I didn’t speak I just turned.   Addressing me and my friends, the elder said “do you recall how Mayor David Dinkins got elected as mayor of New York City?”

“No,” I said.  I think I was too young.  I don’t really remember.  Why sir?

 “Well…”the brother began, raising his voice over the sound of the next mic-check. 

“Back in eighty nine, Dinkins defeated Rudolph Giuliani, and became the first black mayor of New York City.  He did that by bringing together people of color and youth (which became known as the Dinkins Coalition).  He won without the bulk of the white vote in the city!  It’s fine to March and to pray, but we need to go out and vote, locally and nationally.” 

I agreed with the brother.  I say vote as people cater to those who vote and ignore the wants of those who stay home on local election day.

I tried to capture some of what this brother was saying but he didn’t hear me when I asked him to wait and repeat it from the beginning .  The mic-check had gotten too loud so I simply captured the earnest face and some of his words, below.


Here is someone who agrees that voting in a block can help get your issues addressed:

the “stand your ground” law encourages behavior detrimental to minorities! Your hoody won’t change that but your VOTES can/will!

Decreasing sentencing severity for non violent drug offenses etc, could decrease the amount of people we criminalize and subject to the harsh warzone that is prison life.  Even Pat Robertson agrees with that.  He wants to decriminalize marijuana possession (something that gives many people of color inappropriate sentences like this one).

“I just think it’s shocking how many of these young people wind up in prison and they get turned into hardcore criminals because they had a possession of a very small amount of a controlled substance. I mean, the whole thing is crazy. We’ve said, “Well, we’re conservatives, we’re tough on crime.” That’s baloney. It’s costing us billions and billions of dollars. Now think of California. California is spending more money on prisons than it spends on schools. I mean, there’s something wrong about that equation, you know? There’s something wrong.”

-Pat Robertson

 I don’t see voting as the be-all end-all but one facet of a multi faceted way to improve our situations as people of color and as people who want a better country.  That includes all colors, as racial violence and economic disparity is something many white and Asian people are also against!

Specifically to people of color, I think self policing our communities, similar to the way Hasidics and the Black Panthers did, would help.  The cops called West Indian Day parade-goers “animals.”   I wonder what a coalition of self-policing neighborhood watch people would call their own neighbors.   Probably not that.

Here is someone who agrees that our communities could use an organized movement:

We had a movement back in the days called “The Black Panthers”who did neighborhood watch! They wasn’t killing KIDS tho..

I also support the idea of organized and pervasive mentoring for youth of color in the most troubled parts of New York city.  Mentors at every age of my life, helped me to straighten up and fly right.  It seems mentoring could be twice as beneficial for those growing up in more violent or afflicted communities than my suburban neighborhood was. 

I believe the mentorship should be spearheaded by black men in each community.  Which is probably the most difficult part as black males are some of the most afflicted by discrimination, criminalization and lack of education nationwide.  But- we have to start somewhere. I say start now with the men that are willing and able to live by “each one teach one.”

Here’s someone who agrees that mentorship is important in urban centers:

Calling all people especially men from humble beginnings lets link and go where are youths are and start a dialogue.

Finding a reason to vote

It’s easy to find a reason to vote.  Take this: Black men represent a staggeringly high number of inmates in the prison system, and dropouts in the school system.  In the richest country in the world, black men are being unfairly targeted and criminalized at younger and younger ages, all over the country.

If you think something is wrong with that picture, you might have just given yourself a reason to participate in the voting process (and in efforts to reform the sentencing laws and the prison system).  Not sure if there’s a problem in this country with jailing (instead of educating) black males?  Take a peek at this shocking article published by Forbes this week.

Did that move you to want to elect new leaders and work towards decriminalizing society?  Here’s something else to consider.  Prisoners can’t vote.  Neither can people on parole for felony charges.  Isn’t that awful.  We have entire groups of people who have no say.  Let’s shrink that group shall we?  It’s like the new jim crow.  Lock up the colored people so they can’t exercise their rights.

The truth is, David Dinkins was mayor during a terrible time when crack ruled the city, but we are now at a point where that is not the same case.  Dinkins was blamed for a lot of the city’s issues but in essence, there were many demons he had to fight that existed before he ever took office.  Now, 13 years later, why can’t we elect more black leaders into public office?  Um, we can.

Register to vote by clicking here »

Sign Trayvon Martin’s parents petition to arrest George Zimmerman here »

Follow Attorney Crump, the Lawyer for the Trayvon Martin case here »

Purchase The Activist’s Handbook from amazon »

Learn more about the fight for justice system reform  in NY »

Learn more about sentencing reform »

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