Trayvon Benjamin Martin
Trayvon Benjamin Martin
(1995 - 2012)
Trayvon “crazy legs” Martin is and always will be a child and student who loved video games and aviation.
Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old, was profiled, pursued and fatally shot by a neighbor on February 26th, 2012, in Sanford, Florida. “Trayvon was staying with his father and his father’s fiancée in their gated community. He did what millions of people do every day. He donned his hoodie and walked to a convenience store to buy snacks. His choice of refreshments were an Arizona Iced Tea and Skittles.” (source)
Zimmerman, a 28-year-old college student and volunteer for the Neighborhood Watch, spotted Martin walking home from the convenience store and called the police department to report a "suspicious guy," walking between homes and starting to run. The dispatcher told Zimmerman not to get out of his car and follow Martin, with Zimmerman disregarding instructions and pursuing the teen.
“Martin was on the phone with his girlfriend when he was spotted by Zimmerman. She stated that Martin noticed that he was being followed by someone and thus began to run, with the two soon losing contact with each other via Martin's earpiece. Martin and Zimmerman, whom it is believed never identified himself as part of a community watch, encountered each other in circumstances that have remained mysterious and conflicted, with someone calling out for help multiple times in a short time span. The confrontation ended with Zimmerman shooting the unarmed teenager in the chest. Martin died less than a hundred yards from the door of the townhouse in which he was staying.” (source)
Zimmerman's initial release and later arrest sparked a national debate over racial profiling, the role of armed neighborhood watch members in law enforcement.
On March 21, 2012 the Million Hoodie March was organized across NYC to show support for the Martin family and call for the arrest of George Zimmerman. Three days after the March, former president Barack Obama spoke out on Trayvon’s killing stating the incident requires “national soul searching” and stating, “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon.”
The state charged Zimmerman with second-degree murder, but he claimed self-defense, introducing people all across America to Florida’s stand-your-ground law. Though Zimmerman’s case opted for a more general self-defense justification, it brought national scrutiny to the easy removal of the “duty to retreat” laws.
In March 2013, Zimmerman was acquitted. The incident was reviewed by the DOJ for potential civil rights violations, but no additional charges were filed, citing insufficient evidence.
Trayvon’s murder and Zimmerman’s acquittal moved Alicia Garza to compose a love letter to Black people using the phrase “Black Lives Matter.”
“We don’t deserve to be killed with impunity. We need to love ourselves and
fight for a world where Black lives matter. Black people, I love you. I love
us. We matter. Our lives matter.”
-Alicia Garza, in her “Love Letter to Black Folks” (2013)
Alicia Garza’s friend, Patrisse Cullors, immediately “co-signed” the love letter’s simple thesis by tagging her posts on Twitter with #BlackLivesMatter (#BLM).
Stand-your-ground laws have now spread to most states in the United States, propelled by gun groups including the NRA and lawmakers of both parties. Studies have linked Stand Your Ground laws to increases in firearm homicides across the United States. (source)
“Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton were determined that some good would come from their son's death. Shortly after the trial, they established the Trayvon Martin Foundation, which is dedicated to helping parents and families that have lost children to gun violence. They speak out frequently against Stand Your Ground laws.” (source)
Martin's mother, Sybrina Fulton, ran for public office in 2019 and this year, she published an essay this year titled "Trayvon: Ten Years Later," writing that her first objective following the death of her son was to endorse the repeal of so-called stand your ground laws.
Krystal Morin is a Music Educator and Master Chorale Soprano who lives in Boston, MA.
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