On February 26th, 2012, 17 year-old Trayvon Martin was gunned down in a gated community, just 70 yards from the home where he was staying while visiting his father. In a different space and time this might have been a small blurb shoved in the back of the local paper, some journalist’s afterthought.
But in that particular time and space his death sparked a wildfire that spread around the world and is still being felt. Pictures of a baby-faced teenager in a hoodie that could’ve been your son, cousin, or best friend told the story of a true American tragedy. Echos of Emmett Till remind us that a “post-racial” America at times looks a lot like “pre-racial” America.
Now, just like then, we as a society have reached a tipping point, and a law that has safeguarded vigilante violence since 1895 suddenly has come under attack. Right now there are 25 states with some form of the Stand Your Own Ground law on the books, and at least four more that could pass it in the next year.
“If you want to bring a fundamental change in people’s belief and behavior…you need to create a community around them, where those new beliefs can be practiced and expressed and nurtured.”
Malcolm Gladwell, The Tipping Point
Thousands, if not millions, of voices have said that we reject vigilantism and racial profiling. And we’ve found various creative outlets to speak truth to power. Within days of Trayvon’s murder, a flood of songs, art, and other outpourings of artistic expression were created to protest community sanctioned terrorism and the systemic failure of law enforcement.
Art can be a powerful force to mobilize strategic frames, it can be welded with the strength of a weapon of mass destruction. This post is a showcase of some of the art and music dedicated to Trayvon Martin that has moved me.
As you take it in, I’d like you to hold some realities. In this country in 2010 (the most recently released figures) we lost around 12,000 people to gun related deaths, that number climbs up to over 30,000 if you include self-inflicted injuries. We’re the most heavily armed country in the world with around 90 guns for every 100 citizens – India runs a distant second.
And yet, weak gun control laws have not made our country any safer – and being overrun with guns has not protected our children or our communities.
The artistic expression that has flourished in Trayvon’s memory is inspiring, but that can’t be the end. As my boss Malkia says, the hoodie is a meme but not a movement, and only organized pressure can change the law. Please contact your elected officials about gun laws in your state and let them know that we stand our ground on behalf of the Martin family, and everyone one else in our country that has lost a loved one due to gun violence.
Art for Trayvon, Change for America