A weary Jesse Jackson said gravely to the thousands of us gathered in Stanford that it feels like “we’ve been here before.” But for those of us who are still coming of age, the dark tragedies of our people’s past, while an important part of us, remain in the distance. They are history lessons learned in high school and college classrooms. They are memories recounted by those who were present in the marches of 1965 and wore the berets of the 1970s….our parents, grandparents, great-grandparents…
But Trayvon is our brother.
Trayvon Martin gave many of us our first moment! Not just our common, every day, “Can you believe that sh*t? Are you serious!? WTF?!?” moments but a collective moment that lives in the minds and hearts of this new generation. Trayvon Martin is ours, and I, for one, am proudly my brother’s keeper.
That’s why when I arrived in Sanford and saw myself reflected by the hundreds of young faces in the crowd, I couldn’t help thinking that this time was “our time.” I knew that in over 10 other locations around the country, there were other students just like us who had gathered in support of this one cause. I arrived with the knowledge that young people all over this country were outfitted in hoodies and bags of Skittles, had signed petitions, taken photos, Tweeted and Facebooked. Organizers from Florida A&M University loaded up buses. A 17-year old from the local youth division of the NAACP addressed the Sanford City Commission alongside the likes of Reverend Al Sharpton and yet his words were just as steady when he called for the immediate arrest of George Zimmerman. And then, a Morehouse College Student stood proudly before the Sanford crowd, in his crimson college adorned hoodie and said in a voice that was quite clear as that he attended the only all-male Black college in the country that it must be the “most suspicious place in the world!”
I knew that this event had struck a nerve. What I didn’t know is where we would all be tomorrow. What happens next?
The breakout speaker, Rev. Jamal Bryant attempted to answer this question. In two impassioned speeches that I haven’t seen or heard echoed in mainstream news broadcasts, Bryant addressed us directly. He asked “Is this the hour and the defining moment that America will have to record (when) the hip-hop generation took over the civil rights movement?”
And I hope that it is. I’m writing this piece only days after those speeches, and I have already borne witness to the diversions and distractions that threaten to break apart our resolve. Traces of marijuana found in the victims book bag, the Black best friend of George Zimmerman coming to testify on his behalf, and the age old Martin v. Malcolm-style divide encapsulated by the media’s attention to the New Black Panther party…all of which have the been-there-done-that feel of the civil rights movement of our parents’ yesteryear.
So this piece is more than just a reflection, it is a call to action. I wish to speak directly to my peers when I say that we must make this a moment of action. We have no other option.
Safiya Farquharson is a junior at New York University.