Hundreds gather to remember Trayvon Martin

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Dr. Rick Turner, president of the Albemarle-Charlottesville Chapter of the NAACP, addresses the crowd at last week’s rally in remembrance of Trayvon Martin. Photo: Annalee Grant Dr. Rick Turner, president of the Albemarle-Charlottesville Chapter of the NAACP, addresses the crowd at last week’s rally in remembrance of Trayvon Martin. Photo: Annalee Grant

The cry rang up and down Charlottesville’s rainy Downtown Mall last Wednesday evening, a call-and-answer chant heard at rallies across the country in the weeks since George Zimmerman was acquitted of murder in the February 2012 shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida.

“I am!” “Trayvon Martin!”

But Eden Zekarias, the UVA third-year who organized the local rally and vigil in response to the July 13 verdict, had a reminder for the 200 people who gathered in the rain outside City Hall to make speeches, remember, and march in Martin’s name.

“The truth is that not everybody is Trayvon Martin,” Zekarias said. “If we should gather one thing from this event, it is that if we were all Trayvon, we would not be here today speaking these words.”

Some Americans are subject to discrimination, even criminalization, because of their race, gender, religion, sexuality, or monetary worth, she said, “so if we’re going to have a serious conversation about Trayvon, we must first see that these things exist.”

Zekarias, a double major in public policy and leadership and African-American studies from Fairfax, said she didn’t want a case seen by many as evidence of institutionalized racism—a black kid shot and killed by someone who thought he was up to no good, who was then cleared of wrongdoing—to go unrecognized in Charlottesville.

“I didn’t want there to be no response, for people to have nothing to do,” she said.

She pulled together a number of local groups and organizers to spread the word and speak at the event: Charlottesville Center for Peace and Justice board member Bill Anderson, First Baptist Church pastor Hodari Hamilton, local NAACP president Rick Turner, and teacher and youth advocate Wes Bellamy. Their support and the crowds that braved the weather to hear speeches and march the length of the Mall for a vigil outside the federal courthouse at the corner of Ridge and Water streets were proof that the case struck a nerve here, said Zekarias.

Vigil attendee Glenetta Smith-Toliver raised two sons and a stepson in Charlottesville, and said African-American parents’ fear that their boys will be targeted because they’re black is real and justified.

“It could have been my son,” she said. “I want to see justice, not just for black kids, or white kids, or Hispanic kids—for all of them.”

Despite a brief moment of disharmony when conservative talk radio host Joe Thomas was booed for calling on rally attendants to push for gun rights, “because someday, it’s going to be your son or your daughter, God forbid, who has to stand their ground”—a speech bookended by others’ calls for stricter gun control measures—the message coming out of the gathering was unified: To avoid another Trayvon Martin case, the U.S. and its legal system need to change to recognize and correct racial disparities.

It’s a shift that needs to start locally, said Bellamy, who circulated a petition calling for monthly discussions about issues of race at the city level.

“This issue is not one that will go away,” he said. “We will push for this until our kids are 55 and 60 years old. This is a discussion that must always occur until racism is no more.”

  • Bill Marshall

    If black people spent half as much time fixing black on black crime as they have whining about a thug who committed felony assault on an innocent person and getting himself killed in the process there would be substantially less black deaths next year.
    If black people want to know what to say to their kids perhaps they could tell them to dial *911 if they sense they are in danger. They could tell them to avoid confrontations and seek assistance from authorities. They could tell them that if you act ghetto and dress ghetto and show no respect for the law or appropriate behavior people will assume you to be ghetto trash and treat you accordingly. They can tell them that fighting is always a last resort and even the “first ” punch should only be thrown defensively.
    It is hard for others to care about blacks when they seem to care more about real or imagined slights from “whitey” than they do their own internal fighting and struggles that they actually have tremendous control over.
    Even black people are afraid of young black males.

  • Edward N Virginia

    Our email request to Albemarle Board of Supervisors remains unanswered. In the past, emails on human rights issues to Albemarle Supervisors have received insincere responses.

    We hope that the hundreds gathered at the rally you writes about here rally to the Albemarle Board of Supervisors meetings to demand to know the County’s official statement(s) and resources dedicated to an outgoing commitment to human rights. Why haven’t they answered our simple question(s) to them? Does the County have any official statement(s) at all, or any resources at all dedicated to an outgoing commitment to human rights?

    And, hopefully, many of the hundreds gathered at the rally will write the Supervisors to ask questions: e.g. when will the County review and discuss – with public participation – the City’s new Human Rights Ordinance – in relationship to possible Human Rights Ordinance for the County? e.g. when will the County study and report on criminal justice/juvenile justice issues, education issues, social services issues, to see if there are any racial or other biases in these County systems, and to propose correction for any problems? etc.

    The Board’s email is below, as you see:

    To: bos@albemarle.org
    CC: edwardnvirginia@hotmail.com
    Subject: Human rights
    Date: Thu, 25 Jul 2013

    To Board of Supervisors, Albemarle County

    Respectfully,

    We have, from time to time, asked the Board – as representatives of the
    County’s people, history, and future – about its outgoing commitment to
    human rights.

    We have wondered how the County purposefully showcases its respect and
    concern for, and commitment to the protection of, the human rights of
    all the County’s residents and taxpayers, guests and visitors, public
    and private employees and employers. We have not found these proofs.
    Are they any?

    Have you seen recent new reports: http://www.newsplex.com/news/headlines/Hundreds-Gather-at-Charlottesville-Vigil-and-March-in-Honor-of-Trayvon-Martin-216877191.html

    This is but one example of local residents’ concerns that local
    governments are not appropriately accountable for human rights
    protections locally.

    Please provide citations of the County’s ordinances, policies, and
    statements that show the County’s outoing respect and concern for, and
    commitment to the protection of, the human rights, nondiscrimination,
    and equitable justice.

    Thank you.

    Respectfully,

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