Thursday, August 22, 2013

Why We March - Trayvon Martin

 In response to the Ginger Rutland’s article regarding the national call for “Justice For Trayvon Martin” vigil-- a few concerned community members did submit the following Op-Ed to the Bee. While the Sacramento Bee chose not to publish our Op-Ed letter we submitted July 29, 2013. Here’s our Op-Ed letter:

Why We March: Another View
On Saturday, July 20, 2013, hundreds of people met at the Robert Matsui Federal Court House in downtown Sacramento to protest the Zimmerman verdict. The participants reflected the diversity of the region; they were ethnically and culturally varied, young and old, and passionate about the issue bringing them together. They were also determined to keep the protest peaceful, and they succeeded.
Yet Ginger Rutland’s article of Tuesday, July 23, 2013, called for the public to stop protesting the Zimmerman verdict and channel that energy into mentoring a child. Yes, we should indeed continue mentoring and supporting our young people, and yes, we should acknowledge the myriad number of grassroots organizations and individuals in our region dedicated to working with youth. But end protests? Not yet.

Her thesis asserts that agitation and protest have no place in addressing Trayvon’s killing and Zimmerman’s acquittal. That couldn’t be further from the truth. The Constitution gives the public the right to assemble and speak freely.  The stand your ground law invites such a response.  People alarmed about that law and the way it is implemented, especially in Florida, are correct in using their constitutional right to protest, and correct for including young people in the protests and in conversations about race.

 Rutland accurately recognizes the value of mentoring to keep black youth on a straight path. But she gives the impression that the mentoring of young people doesn’t happen in the black community. That also, couldn’t be further from the truth.  In fact, the black community in Sacramento has a long history of organizing to support young people dating back to the 1850’s.
The public deserves to know about the many community-based, grassroots organizations in our region in the present day that have worked with youth for years and some, for decades, and most often, with limited funds. A few examples are the Roberts Family Development Center; The National Council of Negro Women, Sacramento Section; the Women’s Civic Improvement Center; 100 Black Men; 100 Black Women; the Alpha Academy, and many, many more.
The public also deserves to know of the grassroots, neighborhood efforts to combat so-called black on black crime committed by youth. In Sacramento, there is the Mike B. Foundation, which partners with the national Urban Peace Movement and sponsors the annual Silence the Violence Rally.  There is Our World Cultural Center, the Sojourner Truth Multicultural Arts Center, and the coalition of faith organizations throughout Sacramento County that engages with youth to curb gang violence.   These organizations work with at-risk, disadvantaged young people. Moreover, all of the organizations mentioned and many that were not, provide mentoring, tutoring, after school activities, educational field trips, scholarships, and counseling for the youth and their parents/caretakers.
Undoubtedly, these groups took special care when Trayvon was killed and when the Zimmerman verdict was rendered to check in with their youth, allowing them positive avenues to express their anxiety, fear, and rage, generated by this tragedy. Instead of feeling powerless because of the protests, these youth are more likely to feel abandoned if there were no public outcry.  They naturally identify with Trayvon.
Fortunately, the conversation about race has started again, and in the highest places. It is a good sign that President Obama and the Congressional Black Caucus have weighed in. This time, the conversation should continue, no matter how uncomfortable and tired of the issue some people may feel.
Finally, here in Sacramento we organized and implemented the demonstration on Saturday, July 20, 2013, because we feel the pain of the Martin family. We feel the pain of young people who see themselves as vulnerable because of what happened to Trayvon. We are inextricably connected to Trayvon Martin; he is our son, brother, cousin, our nephew, friend, and our future.

Faye Wilson Kennedy, Editor, The Talking Drums Newsletter and Co-Organizer of Sacramento’s “Justice For Trayvon Martin”
Kakwasi Somadhi, Founder, Black United Fund of Sacramento Valley
James Prigoff, Community Member
Derrell Roberts, Co-Founder Roberts Family Development Center and 30 year resident of Sacramento
Dr. David Covin, Founder, The Black Group
Lisa Wuriu, Community Member
Fredi A. Slaughter- Walker, Community Member
Donna Lynem, Community Member
Safiya Pinkston, Community Member
Catherine Pinkston, Community Member
Betty Williams, Sacramento ACLU
Dr. Otis Scott, Sacramento Area Black Caucus
Dr. Joy Johnson, Pastor, Higher Hope Christian Church
Dr. Boatamo Mosupyoe, Chair, Ethnic Studies, CSUS
Shirley Rhodes, the Mike B. Foundation, Inc.
Kiara Sherri Harris ,Black United Fund of Sacramento Valley, Inc.

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