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Raise awareness and find justice for Trayvon

By JV Souffrant
On April 3, 2012

For those of you sitting unaware in Einstein Bros. Bagels and sipping your large iced coffee, Trayvon Martin was a 17-year-old boy gunned downed outside his father's home in Sanford, Fla. on Feb. 26.

While taking a break from watching the NBA All-Star game, Trayvon left the gated community to go to the corner store for candy and iced tea. While he was walking home, a self-proclaimed Neighborhood Watchman named George Zimmerman decided that this black teenager wearing a hoodie with his hands tucked in his pockets looked "suspicious."

It was raining heavily and Trayvon was only trying to keep his cell phone, Skittles and iced tea from getting wet.

Zimmerman called 911 and began following "the suspect" around the community, even after the police dispatcher told him to stop and wait for police to arrive and handle the situation.

Instead, Zimmerman, who was armed with a loaded handgun, confronted Trayvon, who was armed with a bag of Skittles. Neighbors heard shouting, desperate cries for help, a single gunshot and then, silence.

Zimmerman said he shot Trayvon in the chest in self-defense. He has not been arrested.

When I got the first phone call about Trayvon Martin from a friend at home in Florida, the first question I asked myself was, "Why would an innocent unarmed teen be shot while walking home from a convenience store with a bag of Skittles and iced tea?"

Was it because he was wearing a hoodie in a gated community?

Was it because he had his hands in his pockets?

Was it because he was black? My second question was, "Why isn't this story on the front page of every newspaper?"

Trayvon Martin's murder finally made the front page of The New York Times on March 21, nearly a month after the shooting.

The fact that Zimmerman had still not been charged prompted widespread protests and the intervention of the U.S. Department of Justice.

That's a start.

But this is an issue that has been pressing at the doorstep of American society for generations. From Emmett Till to Michael Griffith to Yusef Hawkins to Amadou Diallo to Sean Bell to Troy Davis and, now, to Trayvon Martin, the streets run red with the blood of too many innocent, young black men.

I could have been Trayvon Martin. I grew up in Ocoee, Fla., a town much like Sanford; 35 minutes away, a town of rural farms and small gated communities where a trip to the corner store for candy could end badly for a young black man, confronted by a Neighborhood Watchman.

"J, that could have been us, bro," my friend said when he called to tell me about the killing. "We could have been Trayvon when we were 17. What is stopping them from pulling the trigger?"

For all the talk of a "post-racial" America, I would not feel safe if confronted by a self-proclaimed Neighborhood Watchman in Wellesley or Weston, where the mere presence of a young black man would raise "suspicion."

Can any of my white classmates relate to that fear?

This situation is not only about racial profiling; it is about justice. In a state like Florida, where it is easier to purchase a gun than register to vote, there are lots of underlying issues to be resolved. When the White House releases a statement saying that Trayvon's death is a "local law-enforcement matter," we have a problem. President Barack Obama, a former community organizer, knows firsthand what young black men and women face growing up in America and how this incident with Trayvon is not just something out of the blue.

Every person of color in America is Trayvon Martin. He could have been us. Our dreams could have been taken away just like they were from this young man.

At Brandeis, we pride ourselves in our belief in social justice. We are quick to champion causes like Invisible Children in Africa and shout "Stop Kony."

However, in this moment of truth at home, we must also fight for Trayvon Martin and shout "Stop Zimmerman."

Evidence of Trayvon's murder is not in YouTube videos, Facebook pages, Twitter posts or Tumblr blogs. It is in the Twin Lakes Subdivision where the police, so far, have chosen not to look.

Editor's note: The writer is a member of the Class of 2013.

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