Trayvon Martin USA: Education Icon – Marian Wright Edelman’s Shout-Out Editorial & Poetry


Marian White Edelman Speaks…

I received this communication from Nat White Jr. an east coast grant writer and development consultant historically famous as one of the first African Americans to graduate from Duke University. My own son was murdered in a case of black on black violence in the streets of Atlanta in 1993. There are many many things “taking out children out” so to speak. I will appreciate this wave of attention to CORRECT INJUSTICE and create comprehensive initiative to STOP The VIOLENCE  and ADDRESS HORRIFIC ACHIEVEMENT GAPS and HEALTH DISPARITIES. Our children are the sons and daughters, grandchildren, prodigy, lineage of current and historic patriots in this nation. They are the future of men and women who fought and died in every skirmish and every war declared and not and as such  deserve full protection of the laws of this land and the infinite considerations of American citizenship and opportunity.

MARIAN WHITE EDELMAN … Every parent raising Black sons knows the dilemma: deciding how soon to have the talk. Choosing the words to explain to your beautiful child that there are some people who will never like or trust him just because of who he is—including some who should be there to protect him, but will instead have the power to hurt him. Training him how to walk, what to say, and how to act so he won’t seem like a threat. Teaching him that the burden of deflating stereotypes and reassuring other people’s ignorance will always fall on him, and while that isn’t fair, in some cases it may be the only way to keep him safe and alive.

But sometimes it isn’t enough. It wasn’t enough to protect Trayvon Martin. Seventeen-year-old Trayvon’s English teacher said he was “an A and B student who majored in cheerfulness.” Trayvon loved building models and taking things apart, his favorite subject was math, and he dreamed of becoming a pilot and an engineer. Instead, he was gunned down by a self-appointed neighborhood watch captain vigilante who profiled him, followed him, and shot him in the chest. His killer, George Zimmerman, saw the teenager on the street and called the police to report he looked “like he’s up to no good.” At the time Trayvon was walking home from the nearby 7-11 carrying a bottle of Arizona iced tea and a bag of Skittles for his younger stepbrother, leaving many people to guess that the main thing he was doing that made him look “no good” was wearing a hooded sweatshirt in the rain and walking while Black. George Zimmerman’s decisions made that suspicious enough to be a death sentence.

Now there is widespread outrage over the senseless killing of a young Black man who was doing nothing wrong and the fact that the man who killed him has not been arrested. People are trying to make sense of the series of gun laws that allowed George Zimmerman to act as he did—starting with the Florida laws that allowed someone like Zimmerman, who had previously been charged for resisting arrest with violence and battery on a police officer, to get a permit to carry a concealed weapon in the first place. Many more questions are being raised about Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, which also has been described as the “shoot first, ask questions later” law, and gives the benefit of the doubt to Zimmerman and others claiming “self-defense” by allowing people who say they are in imminent danger to defend themselves. Some states limit this defense to people’s own homes, but others, like Florida, allow it anywhere.

As Josh Horwitz, executive director of the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, says, this law “has turned common law—and common sense—on its head by enabling vigilantes to provoke conflicts, resolve them with deadly force, and avoid ever having to set foot in a courtroom.” The fear in Trayvon’s death is that this is exactly what has happened so far: that the story told by witnesses, phone records, and Zimmerman’s violent past and earlier complaints during his neighborhood patrols shows an overzealous armed aggressor who followed Trayvon even after police told him to stop, chased Trayvon down when the frightened boy tried to walk away from the stranger following him, and then shot the unarmed, 100-pounds-lighter teenager while neighbors said they heard a child crying for help. The prospect now that Zimmerman might never set foot in a courtroom for the shooting has caused widespread frustration and fury.

Just as sadly, Trayvon’s death was not unique. In 2008 and 2009, 2,582 Black children and teens were killed by gunfire. Black children and teens were only 15 percent of the child population, but 45 percent of the 5,740 child and teen gun deaths in those two years. Black males 15 to 19 years-old were eight times as likely as White males to be gun homicide victims. The outcry over Trayvon’s death is absolutely right and just. We need the same sense of outrage over every one of these child deaths. Above all, we need a nation where these senseless deaths no longer happen. But we won’t get it until we have common-sense gun laws that protect children instead of guns and don’t allow people like George Zimmerman to take the law into their own hands. We won’t get it until we have a culture that sees every child as a child of God and sacred, instead of seeing some as expendable statistics, and others as threats and “no good” because of the color of their skin or because they chose to walk home wearing a hood in the rain. And we won’t get it until enough of us—parents and grandparents—stand up and tell our political leaders that the National Rifle Association should not be in charge of our neighborhoods, streets, gun laws, and values. In Trayvon’s case, his father Tracy speaks for what his family needs: “The family is calling for justice. We don’t want our son’s death to be in vain.” I hope that enough voices will ensure that it is not.

Marian Wright Edelman is President of the Children’s Defense Fund whose Leave No Child Behind® mission is to ensure every child a Healthy Start, a Head Start, a Fair Start, a Safe Start and a Moral Start in life and successful passage to adulthood with the help of caring families and communities.

A Prayer for Children

By MARIAN WRIGHT EDELMAN

We pray for children

Who sneak popsicles before supper,

Who erase holes in math workbooks,

Who can never find their shoes.

And we pray for those

Who stare at photographers from behind barbed wire,

Who can’t bound down the street in a new pair of sneakers,

Who never “counted potatoes,”

Who are born in places we wouldn’t be caught dead,

Who never go to the circus,

Who live in an X-rated world.

We pray for children

Who bring us sticky kisses and fistfuls of dandelions,

Who hug us in a hurry and forget their lunch money.

And we pray for those

Who never get dessert,

Who have no safe blanket to drag behind them,

Who watch their parents watch them die,

Who can’t find any bread to steal,

Who don’t have any rooms to clean up,

Whose pictures aren’t on anybody’s dresser,

Whose monsters are real.

We pray for children

Who spend all their allowance before Tuesday,

Who throw tantrums in the grocery store and pick at their food,

Who like ghost stories,

Who shove dirty clothes under the bed and never rinse out the tub,

Who get visits from the tooth fairy,

Who don’t like to be kissed in front of the carpool,

Who squirm in church or temple and scream in the phone,

Whose tears we sometimes laugh at and whose smiles can make us cry.

And we pray for those

Whose nightmares come in the daytime,

Who will eat anything,

Who have never seen a dentist,

Who aren’t spoiled by anybody,

Who go to bed hungry and cry themselves to sleep,

Who live and move, but have no being.

We pray for children who want to be carried and for those who must,

For those we never give up on and for those who don’t get a second chance.

For those we smother … and for those who will grab the hand of anybody kind enough to offer it.

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