On Friday March 25, 2012, the Southeast DC neighborhood of Anacostia came out over 300 strong in a vigil for the brutally slain Trayvon Martin. The crowd was intergenerational, multi-denominational, and BLACK.
The vigil was held at the Big Chair. Several elders from the community opened up the discussion as the crowd slowly grew. NBUF leader Salim Adofo led everyone in a chant paying reverence to Trayvon Martin. A few journalists were among the crowd, along with spiritual leaders. Adofo ended his welcoming statements with this Gil Scot Heron influenced message: “We don’t control ABC or CBS. It will not be televised.”
Surprisingly, unlike most demonstrations, the NBUF did not promote their organization heavily. The speakers focused on the tragedy of Trayvon’s death, and they asked for people to pray with the Martin family. As the sun went down on the big chair and candles were lit, more people gathered. Dozens of children could be seen in hoodies carrying skittles and iced teas. Also unlike many demonstrations, this one had an equal representation of men and women. A young Pan African student named Liane Robinson from New York traveled down for the vigil to stand in solidarity with the folks in Southeast. She was hopeful about the turnout, but warned participants: “don’t let the police divert you the way they diverted us [in New York].”
One young man named Carl Mcclinton delivered the most inspiring message of the night. He had a humble demeanor and a determined disposition. He was one of those rare public speakers who actually offer a practical, sustainable solution, rooted within the community. “We’re the ones getting abused everyday. We’re the ones getting locked up. I propose we need to meet at the big chair every Friday. We can’t keep waiting on them to kill us all.” His words touched me because they were forward thinking. His words were out of love for his people rather than hatred for others. Hopefully, we can move forward with this mentality. The sad truth, however, is that the so-called justice system, may force us out of character. Too many times, we get brutalized without any closure. Our community lives in a perpetual open wound that gets ashes dumped in it periodically. As a people, we generally tend to crave peace, but as one speaker from the vigil noted, it may be time for us to stop turning the other cheek and instead, “TOOL UP”.
On Monday at 4pm, the NBUF plans to hold a rally at the Department of Justice (1425 New York Ave NW DC, near the Metro Center metro and the P6, X2, and S2 busses). The purpose is to find out why Zimmerman hasn’t been arrested as well as why killing a Black child is ok.
Shauntrice L. Martin is the director of the Justice Resource Center and long time youth advocate. Shauntrice has taught in Belize, Trinidad & Tobago, and the Dominican Republic. She is originally from Louisville, Kentucky and currently works with youth to sustain social justice movements in the District and beyond.