Students gathered in the Goodpastor courtyard on March 26 to recognize the tragic death of Florida teen, Trayvon (Tray) Martin, who was shot on Feb. 26 by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer who claimed the African American 17-year-old male looked suspicious, due to the fact that he wore his hood up. Martin was unarmed, and only carried a bag of Skittles and a drink from a convenience store at the time of his death.
Many members of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and the Black Student Union (BSU) spoke out against the injustice, stating that Zimmerman acted not out of self-defense, as the police report originally claimed, but out of racial discrimination.
“I’ve been seeing a lot of people talking about what Tray could have done differently,” said Senior Jack Mumby. “I think it’s important we stop blaming the victim. I don’t think that George Zimmerman learned on his own that a young African-American boy holding Skittles is committing a crime. We have to critically look at the society that created [Zimmerman].”
“I think the most disheartening thing is that something like this had to happen for us to be even talking about this,” said Mumby. Senior Ana Palomino shared her reaction to hearing about the tragedy; “When I first heard about Tray, I was thinking about it from a third party perspective. I started thinking about how I see a black male in a hoodie; do I tense up? Do I cross the street? Do I over-compensate to show I’m not racist? This stereotyping happens all the time and we all have a responsibility to have conversations about it. We all need to hold these awkward conversations.”
The candlelight vigil also included readings of poetry pertaining to injustice, including pieces by Larisa Alexandrovna, Langston Hughes and a reading from the Book of Jeremiah. Senior Johanna Galat read a poem entitled “Five Stages of Grief” by Linda Patan.
“Were here because of these huge problems, and were also here because of a person,” Galat reminded the audience, prior to her reading.
As the vigil went on, students were invited to share their feelings on the incident. One individual shared a drawing created by her five-year-old relative of two people of different races standing inside of a large heart. The student explained that even children understand that race exists, so instead of ignoring differences among people, we need to address them and understand one another. The vigil concluded with a moment of silence.
“As we move forward we must remember the this isn’t an isolated incident,” junior Steve Masson said. “Start putting forward objections to what you see in your day to day lives.”
Students were given the opportunity to share their feelings on the incident and on issues of race on Saturday, Mar. 31 during a student lead discussion entitled, “Continuing the Conversation,” held in Glendenning Annex.
“America has been rotting for a while,” said senior Glenn Razafindrainibe. “It’s time we cut out the rot. It’s sad that this is happening in this day and age.”