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Trayvon Martin: his presence may be gone, but the name lingers on

Trayvon Martin (24323)
Trayvon Martin

The nation is still talking about the verdict in the Trayvon Martin murder trial—in songs, teach-ins, panel discussions and legislative proposals. In Congress, Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) introduced the End Racial Profiling Act Tuesday alongside longtime supporter Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., who is sponsoring the Senate version of the bill.

Aside from banning racial profiling, the bill seeks to strengthen law-enforcement training to ensure officers are basing their patrols and apprehensions on behavior, not skin color. Hearings are being held to discuss various aspects connected with the case.

Rapper Rick Ross is offering his take on the decision in his new album set for release Sept. 17. Ross condemns the verdict and Florida’s Stand Your Ground law in his new track “I Wonder Why.” Ross (who was raised near Miami) raps in a sarcastic drawl, “You gotta stand your ground!”

Ross also reflects on his early criminal life and how he could have met the same fate as Martin.

Following a landmark congressional hearing to address the challenges boys and men of color face across the nation, California legislators will hold a hearing on Aug. 8 from 1-4 p.m. at the state capitol, exploring policy and legislative solutions to improve the lives of the state’s young men of color.

The California Assembly’s Select Committee on the Status of Boys and Men of Color, formed by Speaker John Pérez last year, will examine the progress made toward keeping kids in school, implementing holistic approaches to campus safety, and addressing the violence youth experience in their communities. The committee is also advocating for a package of bills tackling these key areas and will identify priorities for next year.

California’s boys and young men of color are more likely to grow up in neighborhoods marked by poverty, lack of opportunity, violence, underfunded schools and low-wage jobs that do not represent pathways to careers or future health and success.

After a series of hearings last year, the committee released a draft report and action plan intended to be a blueprint for the next 10 years, outlining key legislative proposals to advance outcomes on health, education, employment, juvenile justice and youth development.

In the Los Angeles area, a number of things have or will happen.

The Los Angeles City Council Wednesday unanimously approved Councilmember Bernard C. Parks’ resolution asking for the federal government to investigate the death of Trayvon Martin to determine if his civil rights were violated. Los Angeles is the first city to introduce such a resolution.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson, president of the Los Angeles Urban Policy Roundtable, asked Parks to introduce the resolution. Councilmembers Cedillo, Koretz, and O’Farrell seconded the motion.

The 17-year-old Martin was shot and killed on Feb. 26 in Sanford, Fla. while on his way home from a local store.

George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer who described the teen as “a real suspicious guy” who “looks like he’s up to no good,” pursued Martin against instructions from a police dispatcher and shot him. Although Martin was unarmed, Zimmerman claimed that he shot the teen in self defense.

On July 13, Zimmerman was acquitted of second degree murder and manslaughter in Martin’s death. Demonstrations have been held across the country since the verdict.

Councilman Parks is asking for urgency, thoroughness, and objectivity in the Department of Justice’s investigation and recalled his experience with the Los Angeles Police Department as one of the motivations for introducing the motion.

“I think it’s important that we look at this circumstance and realize many times, as a city, we’re only one step, or one instance away from what happened in Sanford,” Parks said. “That gun gives people a false security … we need the federal government to investigate how laws such as ‘Stand Your Ground’ or ‘Make My Day’ are implicated.”

On Aug. 3, the march and rally, L.A. Stands it’s Ground for Trayvon Martin, begins at 11 a.m. in Pershing Square in downtown, 532 S. Olive St., Los Angeles. For information, contact the Answer Coalition at (323) 810-3308.

“Trayvon Martin and the Struggle for Justice: Where Do We Go From Here?” is a community town hall that will be held on Aug. 4 from 3-5 p.m. to explore economic boycotts, legal and legislative challenges, political actions and other strategies for struggle at the African American Cultural Center (Us), 3018 W. 48th St., Los Angeles.

Co-hosted by the African American Cultural Center (Us) and the Black Community, Clergy and Labor Alliance (BCCLA), the event will include a panel presentation as well as reflections from community members.

In Compton, the National Association for Equal Justice in America (NAEJA) will hold a criminal/civil rights mock trial on Aug. 5 at 600 N. Alameda St., discussing some of the issues that were omitted from the actual trial.

The Institute for Nonviolence in Los Angeles will hold a series of meetings called Days of Dialogue, discussing the death of Trayvon Martin. The first one on Saturday, Aug. 3, is co-sponsored by the Empowerment Congress and the office of Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas, from 9-11:30 a.m. at the Constituent Services Center in Exposition Park, 700 Exposition Park Drive, Los Angeles.

The second discussion will be held Saturday, Aug. 17, at Holman United Methodist Church, 3320 W. Adams, Los Angeles. Three sessions will be held during the course of the day. To find out the exact times, contact the institute at or by phone at (213) 346-3271.

In Florida, the National Bar Association, which held its 88th annual convention in Miami, held a candlelight vigil for Martin.

Sybrina Fulton, Trayvon Martin’s mother, participated in the Saturday vigil as did Benjamin Crump, the Martin family’s attorney.

On Monday, Crump spoke to the gathering about Florida’s Stand Your Ground law.

According to an article in The Root, the Dream Defenders, a group of young activists and professionals convened a “People’s Session” in front of Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s office on Tuesday, July 30, in support of “Trayvon’s Law”—proposed legislation that confronts a trifecta of issues that are believed to have led to Martin’s death and the exoneration of his killer. The Florida governor has refused to call a special session of the state Legislature to consider the law.

The grassroots organization will present expert testimony and anecdotal evidence to advance the pro-Trayvon Martin legislation, which would address “zero-tolerance school discipline policies, stand your ground vigilantism, and racial profiling,” the group said in a statement released to the press.

“In failing to step up and provide real leadership on the very real crisis we’re dealing with, the governor is saying the lives of young Black and Brown Floridians do not matter to him,” said Phillip Agnew, executive director of Dream Defenders. “When we have a hurricane or tornado, he doesn’t sit on his hands and suggest prayer will fix the problem. He takes action. That’s what we expect him to do here.”

Over the next several weeks, the group of mostly youth and young professionals will hear from experts and people with personal experience who will testify in committee hearings focused on each of the issues. “We want to do the hard work of collecting evidence and analyzing expert testimony,” Political Director Ciara Taylor said. “So when the Legislature does finally have an opportunity to consider Trayvon’s Law, we’ve made their job as easy as possible.”

The Dream Defenders will continue their occupation of the capitol while the “People’s Session” takes place over the coming weeks.

The NAACP has also developed a Trayvon’s Law set of policy principles which embody legislative responses that will greatly reduce the likelihood of another tragedy like the killing of Martin. The principles of Trayvon’s Law are: ending racial profiling; repealing Stand Your Ground-type laws; creating law-enforcement accountability through effective police oversight; improving training and best practices for community watch groups; and mandating law-enforcement data collection on homicide cases involving people of color.

In Florida, the NAACP Florida State Conference and the Dream Defenders will advocate for immediate adoption of Trayvon’s Law.