“Trayvon Martin didn’t die so we can create a race war he died so we can promote better understanding. We must start honest dialogue.” -Russell Simmons
Before Saturday, I was on the fence about attending the rally for Trayvon Martin in Center City Philadelphia Monday evening. I had come to the conclusion that George Zimmerman was never going to be brought to justice and that this was only another welt on the backs of our people. But the more I celebrated with my son Quentin on his birthday the more that I realized that this wasn’t about me or my thoughts. There was a bigger picture that I needed to focus on.
A grim reminder of how far we have to go.
My seven minute walk to Olney Terminal was laced with the sight of hoodies, all colors brands and sizes – I grabbed the heaviest one in my closet, a heavy fleece Jordan Brand with a hood big enough for two heads. It was a little after 6pm and the mercury was around 45 with a nice gust of wind to boot. Wearing the UNLV baseball cap was a mistake once the hulk started kicking around but the hoodie did serve a secondary purpose on this day.
Coming up out of the 15th Street concourse with a hot tea in hand, I expected a maddening rush to get to the park but once I reached street level there were already hundreds of people inside Love Park waiting for me to join them – overflowing with love and admiration for Trayvon – even in the midst of “new findings” that Trayvon was suspended from school for having marijuana residue in his bookbag and the even more serious accusation of having attacked George Zimmerman (who outweighs Martin by at least 100 lbs.) minutes before being shot to death by Zimmerman who claimed self-defense.
Walking up to the entrance of the park, there were two portraits of Trayvon that stood about 5 feet both of Trayvon. Without hesitation, I grabbed a pen and looked for open space on both portraits, I was able to find a spot right over his head and signed, “We love you our brother – Ron Glover, Quentin Glover and The Starting Five“.
Entering the rally, I was met with all races genders and ages, I was proud to see the overwhelming number of Black men in attendance – far outnumbering everyone. Young, old, wealthy and homeless were there to show their support. The police presence was visible but the uniformed cops (mostly white) stayed on the outskirts of the park in or around their vehicles. I couldn’t hear much because the volume on the equipment was poor but every few seconds a cheer or chant would go up.
The cover of this week’s Final Call
By now I’m ready to start speaking to people and getting their feelings on the situation. The first person I approach is Brother Kenneth Muhammad from the Nation of Islam. After purchasing my first Final Call in more than five years and inquiring about why he didn’t have any bean pies we got down to business.
Ron Glover: What was your initial reaction once you heard all of the details of this case?
Brother Kenneth Muhammad: Frustrated, because we’ve seen this happen time and time again and we know if we’re not treated right this will continue to happen, my first reaction was here they go again. Alot was done because he was killed by someone of a different race, my concern is that this is happening everyday in our communities. The same emphasis that we took on this rally here should be deal with every black child in our neighborhood, not just when it happens at the hands of someone from a different race. We should feel the same anger when one kills one of our own.
RG: What about the fact that he may never see the inside of a courtroom due to the “Stand Your Ground” law?
BKM: Yes sir Brother, I actually heard that on the news today that there is a possibility due to the law in Florida that it might not happen. Right now it’s a case of injustice, if it were me, you or any other minority we would’ve been locked up until we were found innocent.
RG: In the past many of today’s African-American athletes have taken a lot of criticism and ridicule for not taking a stance on issues such as this. With the gesture last week by the Miami Heat and others athletes of color has this awaken the Black Athlete?
BKM: They understand that this is likely to happen to someone who they didn’t know or even someone who they know. It’s great because it seems like that many of them leave and don’t come back once they get the money they leave and forget about those struggling in the inner city.
RG: Has the Brother Minister (Minister Louis Farrakhan) spoken out on this subject as of yet?
BKM: No sir he hasn’t but I’m sure that he will and I take my example from the Minister Louis Farrakhan.
RG: Thank you for your time Brother.
BKM: My pleasure.
As I ended my conversation with Brother Muhammad, Mayor Michael Nutter was entering the park surrounded by a security team. A woman who I came to know later as Julia Williams noticed my recorder asked me, “Who was I with?” I told her The Starting Five and she volunteered her information like she had known me for years. It made me realize that it didn’t matter what outlet was there people wanted to be heard by anyone willing to listen, you could feel the frustration and desperation in their voices. There were many photographers but other than the usual media outlets I didn’t see too many people walking around with a mic or recorder.
“Get past the stereotype of young Black men!” – Dwayne Wade
Ms. Williams jumped right on the Mayor’s case about how she tried to get a word in with him and was “shoved away.” She went on to say how he could care less about Black people and that she couldn’t wait until his second term was up. After calming down she began to speak about how her nephew Takeem Laws (in her words he was her sister’s grandson’s brother) was shot down while riding a bike in the streets of South Philly in 2009 – one of the city’s 302 victims that year. Ironically, today was his birthday She talked about how this outpouring for Trayvon was great but she went on to question the anger from different groups and leader concerning her nephew and others that are gunned down in the streets daily.
As I moved throughout the park as much as I could, people were questioning one another and those speaking about how something like this has gone on virtually ignored. I looked into the faces of many of the white supporters that came to the rally and I must say if the roles were reversed I don’t think I could stand in the midst of angry white folk and the offender looks just like me.
Mary Kutcher was one of six witnesses who gave a police statement after Trayvon was shot in her backyard. What about her story? And how the Sanford Police Department may have been caught trying to cover up her statements.
The smear campaign that has surfaced against Trayvon and the constant reminders by the press that Zimmerman is of a Mexican mix reeks of fear. The residents in that white gated community that watched a young man die are afraid, that guy with the smug attitude on the train that doesn’t want to move his bag so you can sit down – he’s afraid. Ditto the guy that cut you off in traffic or the guy next to you in the sports bar that’s suddenly concerned about race relations more than the game you’re trying to watch. They’re afraid because they don’t know when we’ll say enough is enough and set this thing off for real.
I was fortunate to run into Byron Daily, a freshman at Norfolk State University who was able to offer his perspective on the case.
RG: Being just a couple of years older than Trayvon how does it make you feel knowing that this could have been you or anyone that you know.
BD: It made me feel that no matter how careful I am I’m just not going to be safe. When I’m in Virginia the campus is open so I can easily walk into other neighborhoods that I’m not familiar with. And if I’m dressed a certain way, could that mean that I look suspicious to someone else?
RG: Have you experienced any racism in Virginia?
BD: I wouldn’t say so, I haven’t been off campus much.
RG: Are you aware of the fact that George Zimmerman may not be brought up on charges?
BD: That’s bullshit.
RG: Now that you’re in college do you feel that there is more of a responsibility to making a difference?
BD: Just making careful decisions no matter how small they may seem in my everyday life and to pay attention to what’s going on in the world.
Within an earshot of that conversation was Otto Barbour, a former Philly high school ballplayer who went on to play at Coppin State with a friend of mine.
RG: What is your response to the details in this case and its lack of progression?
OB: I grieved me – hurt my heart. Once again it appears that we’ve ended up on the wrong side of justice when we should have equality in regards to the justice system.
RG: Do you have any children of your own?
OB: None as of yet.
RG: Looking out on this rally you see people of all races but ultimately we know that it must come down to us. What do feel when you see this type of solidarity?
OB: This is very powerful and it only shows that when we come together nothing is impossible and we all have to continue to be on the same page. Speaking to humanity as a whole, it grieves my heart to know that the African-American community is the laughingstock of the human race and we can’t seem to understand that we need to come together as a people. It grieves me that some of us that have been blessed (Black Athletes) don’t take the forefront a little more, but at the same time it shouldn’t stop any of us from taking that forefront.
RG: Thanks Brother.
Heading home that night, I felt more uncertainty than anything else. I don’t know what’s on the horizon for this case and the effects that it will have on race relations in this country going forward. What I do know is that we are at a critical point and whatever happens in Sanford, Florida could tip the scales dramatically.