“Until the killing of black men, black mother’s sons, becomes as important to the rest of the country as the killing of a white mother’s son. We who believe in freedom cannot rest until this happens.” – Ella Baker, 1964
Trayvon Martin (1995-2012)
Today, February 5th, Trayvon Martin would have celebrated his 25th birthday. He was murdered when he was just 17 years old. He enjoyed video games, biking, football, and had a strong interest in a career in aviation. He never got the chance to grow older, to graduate from high school, find his path, or do a million other things that are part of becoming an adult.
Trayvon was robbed of his life and his future when he encountered a man named George Zimmerman, upon walking walking back alone to his father’s fiancée’s house from a nearby convenience store, through a gated community in Sanford, Florida. Zimmerman, a member of the community watch, saw Trayvon and called in a report to the Sanford Police, describing him as suspicious. What made Trayvon suspicious to Zimmerman? Zimmerman had a history of calling the police repeatedly on previous occasions, and when describing the suspect, all were black. He also mentioned the fact that Trayvon was wearing a hoodie, which would not have been unusual in February, during a rain storm.
Zimmerman pursued Trayvon, who broke into a run to get away from the stranger following him, first in his vehicle, then on foot, even after being told not to by police. Zimmerman was armed, Trayvon was not. After a scuffle, the pursuit ended with Zimmerman fatally shooting him 70 yards from the rear door of the townhouse where Trayvon was staying.
Despite Trayvon Martin being unarmed and having not committed a crime, George Zimmerman was acquitted of all wrongdoing.
During the subsequent trial, while Zimmerman’s defense team ultimately did not seek a pretrial hearing for immunity from prosecution based on the stand your ground “self defense” law, the trial the judge instructed the jurors that Zimmerman had had no duty to retreat and had had a right to stand his ground and use deadly force if he reasonably believed doing so was necessary to defend himself.
Trayvon Martin’s family, supporters, and activists in Florida and eventually across the country came together to protest the injustice of Zimmerman not being held accountable for his murder. Martin’s death inspired a Facebook posting that included the phrase “black lives matter”, which later became the name of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Black Lives Matter (often abbreviated as BLM or with the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter) has become an international movement, campaigning against violence and systemic racism towards black people. BLM regularly holds protests speaking out against police killings of black people, and broader issues such as racial profiling, police brutality, and racial inequality in the United States justice system.
The movement became more nationally recognized following the 2014 deaths of two African Americans: Michael Brown in Ferguson and Eric Garner in New York City.
Today, Trayvon Martin is gone, but not forgotten. He is much more than a name with a hashtag. He is loved and deeply missed by his family, his friends, and countless others who have been moved to action on his behalf. Happy Birthday, Trayvon. #RestInPower
Director of Marketing and Donor Engagement