Ten years ago, our world changed forever.
What started as a zero-tolerance school discipline policy — displacing yet another Black student from the classroom — quickly rendered 17-year-old Trayvon Martin vulnerable to being racially profiled, surveilled, and killed by a self-appointed neighborhood watch captain turned vigilante. A courageous child who, at nine years old saved his father from an apartment fire, and had aspirations of attending Florida A&M University and becoming a pilot or engineer, had his dreams deferred.
By the time the Nation learned the story — and how George Zimmerman, Trayvon’s killer, remained free from arrest despite having been in police custody — a generation of young people in Florida collectively known as the Dream Defenders had already begun to organize. Issuing a call-to-action from the steps of the Florida Capitol in Tallahassee, the Dream Defenders set out on a three-day 40-mile march from Daytona Beach to the City of Sanford, where Trayvon was killed. Following their disruption of the Sanford Police Department, Zimmerman was finally charged by the State Attorney and arrested for murder despite the reluctance of a Governor and state legal officials.
Following a trial undermined from the very beginning, Zimmerman was acquitted by a Seminole County Court and a historic occupation of the Florida Capitol led by the Dream Defenders began. In the 31 days that followed, not only did we learn about the failed political leadership of those entrusted to care for the well-being of those vulnerable to harm and suffering, but we were also made aware of the persistent and revolutionary power of young people. And it was in this moment, too, that the beginnings of our global network began to coalesce and #blacklivesmatter as our rallying cry first emerged.
Because “the young always inherit the revolution,” we must continue to do all we can to ensure our young people are afforded access to the abiding love, healthy choices, and the second chances they deserve. And as our fight for Black freedom and the right to self-determination continues, let us be reminded that justice demands Black life as a precondition. It is in that spirit we commemorate Trayvon’s 27th birthday, never forgetting that justice for Trayvon and Aiyana and Andrew and Ma’khia…and…and…and… is creating a world in which our children are still here.
We send our deepest love and support to Trayvon’s family and loved ones. We pledge to continue to struggle alongside them and work to build a world befitting our children and future generations…a world where Black people are free.
Join the Trayvon Martin Foundation this weekend in Miami as we march for peace in Trayvon’s name and donate to the Trayvon Martin Foundation to fund the work.
In solidarity and with love,
Charles H.F. Davis III, Scholars for Black Lives
and Melina Abdullah, Black Lives Matter