South LA protest pays tribute to Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis

A scene from the protest | Isaac Moody

A scene from the protest | Isaac Moody

The Stop Mass Incarceration Network staged a protest in South Los Angeles yesterday in remembrance of Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis, both African-American 17-year-olds from Florida who were killed in 2012. At the corner of Crenshaw Boulevard and Slauson Avenue, community members rallied to draw attention to the criminalization of youth of color as well as the pipeline that can lead to incarceration. The rally was accompanied with massive posters of the boys’ photos along with bold statements like “We are all Trayvon” and “The whole damn system is guilty.”

“There’s a green light to shoot and murder, to criminalize and incarcerate Black and Latino youth in this society, that’s gotta stop,” said one protester. Click play to hear more of the charged voices and opinions from the event.

‘Hey Obama…where you at?’ 600 days and still no justice for Trayvon Martin

On October 16, the grassroots civil rights campaign, Fight for Soul of the Cities, led a rally featuring drums, spoken word, and song in Leimert Park, seeking justice for Trayvon Martin, a 17-year old boy who, 600 days ago, was killed by neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman in Florida.

Youth from Boyle Heights sharing their appreciation for the events of the day.

Youth from Boyle Heights sharing their appreciation for the events of the day.

“Is it my hoodie or my skin that’s probable cause/ For my people being slain by these racist laws?” youth from as far as Boyle Heights chanted at the community speak out, demanding the Obama administration do a full civil rights investigation and indictment of Zimmerman and the Sanford Police Department.  A jury acquitted Zimmerman of second-degree murder charges in July 2013.

“The administration has not yet brought civil rights charges against either Zimmerman or Sanford, Florida Police Department, the indictment of the police being essential to confront this institutional form of racism,” said chair of the Labor/Community Strategy Center, Sunyoung Yang. [Read more…]

Crenshaw High School memorial dedication for Trayvon Martin

Marchers commemorating Martin Luther King's historic speech with a memorial to Trayvon Martin at Crenshaw High School.

Marchers commemorating Martin Luther King’s historic speech with a memorial to Trayvon Martin at Crenshaw High School.

Tuesday August 27 2013- Crenshaw High School students, teachers, and politicians  in South L.A. commemorated the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech  by having a school garden beautification and dedicating part of their school garden as a memorial to Trayvon Martin.

Martin was the 17-year-old from Sanford, Florida who was shot by neighborhood watch coordinator George Zimmerman in February of 2012.

Eighth District Councilmember Bernard Parks made a presentation on the Trayvon Martin Resolution passed by the Los Angeles City Council to pressure the federal government to investigate the Martin shooting. Representatives from LAPD’s South Bureau also spoke to students about how to stand up for their First Amendment Rights in a way that won’t end up in arrests. [Read more…]

OPINION: Trayvon’s class of 2013

Black scholars At Black Skeptics Los Angeles’ scholarship ceremony, my colleagues and I had the honor of awarding scholarships to five brilliant youth of color who are first generation college students. They are 17 and 18 year-olds who have known more struggle and sacrifice than many adults have known in their entire lives. They have each battled the dominant culture’s view that they are not white, male, straight, wealthy or smart enough to be genuine college material. They have all seen their neighborhoods—South L.A. communities powered by hard working people, students, activists, educators from all walks of life—portrayed as ghetto cesspit jungles where violent savages roam, welfare queens breed, and drive-bys rule. They have all mourned the absence of young friends and relatives who did not live to see their high school, much less college, graduation ceremonies. Looking around the room at their bright young faces, surrounded by proud family members, teachers, and mentors, the collective sense of duty and obligation everyone felt toward this next generation of intellectuals, activists and scholars was evident.

Because the ceremony occurred in the midst of national anxiety over the murder trial of George Zimmerman it was both a celebration of promise and a bittersweet paean to the burning loss and betrayal communities of color routinely experience in this racist apartheid nation. Trayvon Martin would’ve been 18 this year, a graduate of the class of 2013. He might have been college-bound, anxious, bracing against the fear of the unknown, heady with anticipation about the future. He might have been mindful of the psychological and emotional miles he’d have to travel to be freed from the prison of society’s demonizing assumptions. He might have experienced all of these feelings while grieving the untimely deaths of his own friends and being told that young black lives don’t matter.

Zimmerman’s acquittal for his cold-blooded murder is a turning point and baptism by fire in the cultural politics of colorblindness. It is a turning point for every middle class child of color who believes their class status exempts or insulates them from criminalization. It is a turning point for every suburban white child whose lifeblood is the comfort and privilege of presumed innocence. It is a turning point for every Talented Tenth parent of color who has deluded themselves about the corrupt creed of Americana justice. And it is a turning point for a collective historical amnesia in which race and racism are soft-pedaled through imperialist narratives of progress, enlightenment and transcendence.

For black people who have had faith in the criminal justice system and due process it is no longer possible to pretend that black life is worth more than that of a dog killed in broad daylight on a city street. People who kill dogs—or those who run vicious dog-fighting rings like NFL football player Michael Vick—receive longer prison sentences than do law enforcement officials (or their surrogates) who kill black people. For a predominantly white female jury that did not see the crushing loss in the murder of a young man pursued by a predator who was expressly told not to leave his vehicle by law enforcement; the life of a dog was apparently more valuable.

This is one of the indelible lessons in “democracy” and American exceptionalism that Trayvon’s class will take with them to college and hopefully spend their lives fighting to upend.

Sikivu Hutchinson is the founder of Black Skeptics Los Angeles and the author of the new book Godless Americana: Race and Religious Rebels.

Black community calls for action after controversial death

imageTwenty years ago, one man sparked the uprising of an entire community. The mention of his name held tension, outrage, and passion. That man was Rodney King. Today, the name of another man, ten years younger, is sparking another movement.

That young man’s name is Trayvon Martin. On Saturday morning, in a meeting called, ‘Black Men Stand Their Ground: Justice for Trayvon Martin,’ over 200 Los Angeles community members gathered in an Inglewood church to discuss race relations and the profiling of black men.

The first hour of the meeting hosted by radio station KJLH was spent reviewing details of Martin’s case. The second part of the meeting called for attendees to participate and voice their solutions for race relations relating to the black community.

Minister Tony Muhammad, organizer of the Nation of Islam, Reverend Lewis Logan, co-founder of Ruach Christian Community Fellowship, Cedric Watkins, partner at Watkins Group & Associates and YoYo, a rap artist, led a panel discussion.

Lines of people quickly filled the church’s three aisles, as community members voiced their concerns and offered solutions over a period of two hours. Given the number of people, not everyone got a chance to speak.

The solutions offered were varied – from increased education to matters of dress code. Some argued that attendees should wear hoodies to protest against the profiling of black men in hoodies as a threat. Others suggested the opposite path, saying they should wear suits to guard against wrong perceptions.

The one thing that people agreed on was that there is still a need for a movement creating intentional change in widespread perceptions of the black community.

imageReverend Logan called for action saying, “Not only are we standing our ground, but it’s time for a movement,” making reference to the meeting’s title, “Black Men Stand Your Ground.”’

Organizers of this meeting hope it won’t be an isolated event. The panel has planned more “movement meetings” as an action step to progress in the improvement of race relations and equality in the public perception of the black community.

“We didn’t come just to talk. We came to reflect and then we came to project,” said Logan. “You can only keep what you are organized to take. And if you are not organized, you will not take anything.”

Those in attendance also voiced concern that the black community is not organized, because they have stopped behaving like a community, neglecting to live life with one another and speak with each other.

Though outraged by the shooting of Trayvon Martin, some expressed hope that this event would achieve this goal of bringing together their community.

“It’s unfortunate that this young man has to be the catalyst for this to happen but sometimes God has a reason for things,” said Donna Armbrister, a teacher from Watts who attended the meeting. “His death is not going to be in vain. As long as I have breath in my body, it’s not going to be in vain.”

This “catalyst” has provoked a national uproar at what many feel was the senseless killing of a young black man, not unlike the uprising against what many felt was the senseless beating of Rodney King.

Twenty years after the LA uprising of 1992, community members have mixed feelings on whether or not race relations have changed in the United States.

Armbrister said that race relations have definitely improved, but qualified her statement by saying, “A black man is still perceived as evil and until that changes we need to be vigilant as a race and as people to make sure that our children are not forgotten and are not seen as a threat.”

Robbie Davis, a 20-year resident of Los Angeles, disagreed with Armbrister, but agreed that the perception of the black community is the main contributor to racial inequality.

“Relations have not changed until all communities are seen as equal,” said Davis. “If you perceive a certain community in the manner that you can treat them differently from another community then things have not changed.”

Derik Cross, 48, born and raised in Los Angeles, cited the lack of discussion and movement as a reason for little change in race relations, saying, “The problem is we never talk about race. We talk about race in a vacuum for a moment and then there’s no follow up on this. It’s embarrassing.”

Many community members agreed saying simply showing up and talking about issues is the first step to change.

“Whenever you have an opportunity to hear the community speak, then you show up, said Davis. “In terms of immediacy, that doesn’t happen; but I will show up as long as it takes.”

The first follow-up to Saturday’s meeting will be held on April 11th at 6:30pm at Bethel AME Church.

Two rallies, one message: students and Angelinos call for justice for Trayvon Martin

Listen to the audio story from Annenberg Radio News:

image“It’s been 32 days since neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman shot and killed Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida. Zimmerman claims he acted in self defense. But USC student Matthew Gray doesn’t buy Zimmerman’s argument.

“Just self defense is just not going to fly with me,” said Gray. “Because he’s at least 100 pounds heavier than Trayvon. Through different people who have seen the incident, he attacked Trayvon verses Travyon attacking him so it all just doesn’t add up.”

According to the Sanford Police Report, Zimmerman claims Martin looked suspicious wearing a hoodie in the rain inside a gated community. Police say Martin was unarmed and was only carrying a packet of skittles and an ice tea. BUT Zimmerman chose follow him and an altercation ensued.

Eddie Jones Jr., the President of the Los Angeles Civil Rights Association, led a protest today in Crenshaw.

“How dare Zimmerman have the audacity take a loaded 9 millimeter weapon,” said Jones. “ That’s a premeditated conspiracy to commit murder on a young person that was completely innocent.”

But according to some eyewitness accounts and a police investigation, Zimmerman may not have killed Martin in cold blood. According to the Orlando Sentinel, the police reports say Martin punched Zimmerman in the face and then slammed Zimmerman’s head against the sidewalk.

However, the Orlando Sentinel released a video from a security camera that shows police escorting a handcuffed Zimmerman into an interrogation room the night after the killing. Zimmerman has no visible head injuries.

Rachel Zolensky is the president of a brand new USC club called the Alliance of White Anti-Racists Everywhere (AWARE). She says Travyon’s case is a manifestation of American institutional racism.

“You know this isn’t the first case where something like this has happened. There’s a history in the United States of Black Life not being valued the same as White life.”

USC students will gathered on campus on Thursday night for a candlelight vigil in Trayvon’s honor.

South LA councilman urges respect for legal process in Trayvon Martin case

By Kunal Bambawale, Annenberg Radio News

Listen to this audio story:

Some of the pastors at McCoy Memorial Baptist Church on 46th Street in South L.A. wore hooded jackets to express their solidarity with 17 year-old Trayvon Martin—who was wearing a hoodie when he was shot.

As the twenty-odd churchgoers held hands in mourning, pastors called for the arrest of George Zimmerman, who says he shot Martin in self-defense.

imageBut Eighth District Councilman Bernard Parks urged respect for the legal process.

“I don’t think we right a wrong by having no investigation. I think the investigation will clarify in everyone’s mind what actually occurred and will then become the basis of what happens in court,” said Parks.

The shooting, on February 26th in Sanford, Florida, has sparked a national debate about so-called “Stand Your Ground” laws.

Here in California, you can only use deadly force to protect yourself in your own home, and only when an intruder is threatening you with severe injuries or death.

But in Florida, where Martin was shot, you can also “stand your ground” in a vehicle or public place. If the investigation concludes that Martin initiated the violence, then Zimmerman was legally allowed to use his gun to defend himself.

But Councilman Parks believes that even calling the law “Stand Your Ground” is confusing.

“When you hear these little slogans like ‘Stand Your Ground,’ it defeats the whole purpose of explaining the law. So I don’t think people are interpreting the law, as what I can see the intent is, because I’ve heard variations that say, you can just be frightened and shoot. I don’t know of any law on the books that says you can indiscriminately shoot people.”

The case has spurred civil rights protests across the country, as well as here in Los Angeles. Monday morning, a group of more than a hundred students from Fremont High School in South L.A. marched to demand justice for Trayvon Martin.

South LA preachers pray for Trayvon
by Lensa Bogale

imageMembers of the Baptist Minister’s Conference gathered together Monday to pray and oppose the injustices of 17-year old Trayvon Martin’s murder, who was shot dead last month while unarmed in Sanford, Florida.

28-year old Zimmerman, the shooter, has recently alleged that Martin approached him from behind, punched him, and then proceeded to bang his head into the sidewalk, causing him to shoot the teen out of self-defense.

Martin’s parents are now in the midst of defending their slain teenage son against these recent accusations and are also criticizing the police for providing confidential information about their son’s suspension from school due to marijuana possession.

Pastor Dr. Wendell Davis Sr., who preached during a church service following the gathering, is one of several that empathize with Martin’s parents.

“It was a grown man preying on a child and a child fighting for his life, that is what we have to keep the focus on,” said Davis. “I don’t care what he was [racially], it was a child being murdered.”

The case has ignited public debate on race, because Martin was African American and Zimmerman is of Caucasian and Hispanic decent. Civil rights leaders have led a number of protests in Sanford as well as across the United States.

Sybrina Dulton, the mother of the 17-year old, spoke before a congressional panel in Washington D.C. on Tuesday calling for justice for her son’s death and to talk about racial profiling and hate crimes issues.

Davis specifically addressed the isuse of racial tensions in South Los Angeles, “We know we have black [African American] on brown [Latino] crime in South L.A. and we know we have internal issues within our communities and we are working on that, that’s what this conference is partially about.”

The Police in Sanford maintain their stance that Zimmerman’s story is consistent with the evidence in the Trayvon Martin shooting and the 28-year old has not yet been arrested.

“Speak against violence to anyone or any person no matter what their race, dress, or sexual preference may be,” says Davis. “And say in solidarity ‘that was wrong.'”

Trayvon Martin’s death: the psychological impact on America’s minority communities

Listen to the audio story from Annenberg Radio News:

imageIt’s been more than a month since Trayvon Martin was shot dead while walking home from school in Sanford, Florida, one hour outside Tampa. His shooter, Geroge Zimmerman, claims he was acting in self-defense and was forced to shoot down Martin after being attacked.

As of now, no formal charges have been filed against Zimmerman. Adding fuel to the fire, Sanford’s police chief announced today that he would temporarily step down from his post, a decision he attributes to the distraction his presence has caused to the investigation.

I spoke with Shana Redman, a professor of American Studies & Ethnicity at USC, about the incident, and how similar incidents impact the psyche of African American youth in the United States.