The sun hadn’t made an appearance the entire day. At 6 p.m. the sky reamined gray and somber, a reflection of my disposition this past week. The temperature was dropping rapidly as I placed my hands in my pocket. My brother and I began walking toward Newark Penn Station in a hurry. I silently cursed myself for not wearing my blazer in addition to the hoodie. I quickly reminded myself that this trip to New York City was much bigger than keeping warm. It was bigger than me.
Since I began following the Trayvon Martin case, my anger, disgust and sadness has increased with each passing day. Every day has been a struggle to control my emotions, as they were at a boiling point and ready to spill over. Every day I search for updates surrounding the case. Every day I have looked at Trayvon’s picture head lining an article, and felt an undescribable sickness in my stomach. When I look at his picture, I see my brother. I see my nephew, who is only three years old. I see the faces of the young men I work with staring back at me with youthful eyes, dancing with innocence.
With the murder of Trayvon Martin, I have suffered a loss too. It has been difficult for me to process that Black lives do not have any value in America (particularly the lives of Black men). I grow angrier at the realization that my nephew, whom I love dearly is not exempt from suffering the same fate as Trayvon Martin. I look at those pictures and he is Trayvon Martin. My brother is Trayvon Martin. I am Trayvon Martin. Emotions were stirring inside me and I needed my voice heard by any means necessary, even if that meant flying out to Sanford, FL (which I intended to do before becoming aware of the Million Hoodie March).
My brother and I were greeted by hundreds, possibly even thousands of people as we arrived at Union Square Park on 14th Street. The enitre area surrounding the park was filled with individuals rallying together to support Trayvon Martin’s family and to speak out against the injustice that they are currently coping with. My brother and I attempted to get closer to the center of the park so we could hear the individual who was speaking. Navigating the area was much more difficult than we imagined, so we decided to stick to the outskirts of the crowd and take photos.
Moments later, the speaker gave the call. It was time to march to the United Nations. My brother and I were swept up in the crowd as we began marching down 14th Street toward the West Side. Traffic was at a stand still. Cars were frozen in awkward positions like metal mannequins. Puzzled expressions decorated the face of drivers. Clearly they were not accustomed to this type of traffic jam. I looked up at the buildings lining the blocks, where people were taking pictures of the march from their windows. Police arrived. A female officer, told a man to move over and he replied that “This is important!” Her expression stoic, she flatly responded “I’m sure it is”. Tourists looked on in amazement from red double decker tour buses, cameras flashing as we chanted “I am Trayvon Martin!”
As the crowd made its way to 6th Avenue, I was amazed by how much power we have as people. I’ve never witnessed a major artery in New York City shut down because citizens have taken to the streets in protest. The chant changed to “Please don’t shoot me, just Skittles and iced tea” highlighting the two items that Trayvon Martin had on him when he was deemed suspicious and murdered by self appointed neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman.
Trayvon’s parents walked down the streets of New York City with their heads held high, continuing to handle this situation with an incomparable amount of poise and grace. The father, Tracy Martin answered questions from the press without an ounce of hate in his voice and I wondered if I would be able to accomplish the same if I were in his position.
The Million Hoodie March turned down 22nd Street in the direction of the East Side. Our attempts to cross over Broadway were foiled by a motorcade of cops, as we were forced to walk back in the direction of Union Square Park. NYPD succedded in causing discord and confusion, as protesters were unsure of what to do next. Later that evening I received word that some people headed to Wall Street, others were spotted in Times Square. I assume that group actually made it to the United Nations.
My brother and I stayed behind at Union Square to interview supporters for his documentary and take more photos. In that moment, I was extremely proud to be a Black American. I witnessed men and women of various ages articulate their thoughts and express their feelings concerning not only Trayvon Martin, but black America as a whole. My heart swelled with pride as I stood next to families standing together in unity. I smiled at children holding up signs in protest, chanting Trayvon’s name. A toddler in a stroller pumping is right hand, the left holding a bag of Skittles. These are images that I will never forget.
R.I.P. Trayvon Martin
Never been stopped.
Never been frisked.
I wonder why.