Trayvon Martin’s Moment Should Spark a Movement

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[The View From Washington]

Last week I wrote a piece that compared the tragic murder of Trayvon Martin with the horrific murder of Emmett Till.  Both were well liked, fun-loving teenagers. 

Both were murdered because of stereotypes of young African American men being perceived as threats to the security of White Americans.  Emmett’s murderers, Roy Bryant and J.W. Milan were tried but acquitted.  They later admitted to Till’s murder.

Trayvon’s killer, George Zimmerman confessed to police that he shot Trayvon.  He has yet to be arrested and charged.

The murder of Emmett Till became emblematic of the disparity of justice for Blacks in the South. It was a tragic event, a brutal murder, a moment in time that sparked protests around the world.  It became a catalyst for the Civil Rights Movement. 

Movements are about moments and the linkages of them that generate momentum over time.  Whether it’s the recent  murder of James Craig Anderson by White teens in Mississippi, Oscar Grant in Oakland, Sean Bell in New York, Amadou Diallo in New York, or plainclothes African-American police officer Cornel Young Jr. who was shot to death in Providence, Rhode Island, Trayvon’s moment should be linked to these others to spark a movement.

Over the past few weeks there have been protests all around the country calling for the arrest of Zimmerman and justice for Trayvon.  According to The Washington Post celebrities are promoting ““A Million Hoodies for Trayvon Martin.”

More than 300,000 people have posted pictures of themselves in hooded sweatshirts to Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, according to organizers. Slogans on the photos include “We are all Trayvon” and “Hoodies Don’t Kill, People with Guns Do.””

This is all very positive but more direct action needs to be taken. Eventually the students who are protesting will return to their classrooms and the adults will return to work.  What are the linkages that will propel Travon’s moment to a movement?

On the heels of the August 28, 1955 murder of Emmett Till, African American’s in Montgomery, AL protested racial segregation on their public transit system.  The Montgomery Bus Boycott began on December 1, 1955 and a year later financially crippled the Montgomery public transit system.  In response to the Sanford, FL Police Department’s failure to arrest Zimmerman, the NAACP, Urban League, National Action Network, Rainbow Push Coalition, and other organizations could call for a boycott of the state of Florida.  

According to a 2002 report by the University of South Florida of, “tourism is the most important factor driving Florida's economy," noting that visitors spend "over $40 billion dollars each year, tourism is the state's greatest source of income.” It is estimated that in 2013 the number of travelers is estimated to have increased by 31% as compared to 2002

A call for tourists to boycott Disney's Magic Kingdom, Epcot Center, the MGM Movie Studio center, the Miami Heat, Orlando Magic, Florida Marlin’s, and other FL destinations could help to create or contribute to a momentum of change and social justice in this country.

One of the tenants of the Occupy Movement’s across this country is social justice.  What greater social injustice is there to address than the murder of an innocent teenager?  Again, human and civil rights organizations should be meeting and strategizing with the Occupy Movements as they plan for their spring offensives, tying Trayvon’s moment to their movements.

Finally, as the country morns the tragic loss of one African American teenager in Florida, greater focus should be paid to the horrific rates of “Black-on Black Crime” in cities like Chicago, Los Angeles, and Detroit.  From March 16 – 19, 41 people, mostly African American were shot in Chicago.  Ten were killed.

How do we turn Trayvon’s moment into a movement? Movements are the result of linking moments and various interests that generate momentum over time.  Whether it’s driving while Black, walking while Black or just being Black, we must confront the realities of  patterns of perception, logic, symbol formation, thought, action, and emotional response,  that are resulting in the death of too many African American’s at the hands of the George Zimmerman’s of the world and our own.

© 2012 InfoWave Communications, LLC

Dr. Wilmer Leon is a political scientist at Howard University and host of the nationally broadcast call in talk radio program “Inside the Issues with Wilmer Leon” on Sirius/XM channel 128. Go to or Dr.Leon’ or

"Speaking Truth To Empower."

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