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A Wake up call for America?


    Contributor: Amariah S Tyler

    “Mother, mother there’s too many of you crying…Brother, brother, brother there’s too many of you dying…” –Marvin Gaye, “What’s Going On?”

    The shot heard around the world was the unanimous verdict, reached by six jurors, ruling George Zimmerman not guilty for the murder of 17 year-old Trayvon Martin. It was obvious to many Americans, based on the evidence surrounding Martin’s death, that Zimmerman was indeed guilty of cold-blooded murder. He pursued and initiated an altercation with Martin (who was walking home from the store with a snack of Arizona tea and a pack of Skittles) and shot him dead because he felt “threatened”.  He didn’t feel threatened enough to stay at his home and follow the police dispatcher’s advice not to follow Martin though. Despite the obvious evidence, the jury of six women (all none-black) did not charge him guilty. Zimmerman was returned his weapon and America watched as he was allowed to walk free—with a sickening smile of victory on his face. It’s as if they murdered Trayvon a second time; the only difference being that his parents and the entire world were watching.

    I’d be lying if I said that I was shocked or surprised by the outcome. What can be expected from a country that enslaved, lynched, raped, beat, and murdered millions of African-Americans for over four hundred years? This verdict also coming from the same state that allowed Casey Anthony to go free, but sentenced Marissa Alexander twenty years for shooting in the air (in actual self-defense from her abusive husband) and denying her the same “Stand Your Ground” defense Zimmerman used. It makes me outraged at the injustice of the so-called “justice” system.

    “Crime is increasing…Trigger happy policing…Panic is spreading…God knows where, where we’re heading…” –Marvin Gaye “Inner City Blues (Makes Me Wanna Holler)”

    While disturbing recent news has your attention Black America, here are some other facts that you may or may not be aware of:

    • The Supreme Court dismantled the Voter’s Registration Act. The VRA was enacted to protect minorities from local voting laws designed to prevent them from voting. Without the VRA, states can now change their voting polices without federal approval. Meaning, the black and the poor can be kept from voting without consequences.
    • Schools are closing around the country in urban neighborhoods while more prisons are being built. From Chicago to Memphis and Philadelphia to New York, schools across the country in urban neighborhoods are closing at an alarming rate with predominately black students. Yet, prisons are also being built just as fast.
    • Black unemployment sits at 13.8%. The national unemployment rate is 7.6%.
    • 13.5% of Black men over 20 years old are unemployed. 43.6% of black teens ages 16-19 are unemployed. Overall, 2. 8 million of Black Americans are unemployed.
    • In 2013 alone, there have been over 200 homicides in Chicago. Many of these are gang-related with the majority of the lives claimed being black.

    “Killing us one by one, in one way or another. America will find a way to eliminate the problem one by one. The problem is the troubles of the black youth of the ghettos and one by one; we are being wiped off the face of this earth at an extremely alarming rate. And even more alarming, is the fact that we are not fighting back.” –Tupac Shakur “Words of Wisdom”

    What’s even sadder than the actual Zimmerman verdict is the fact that most Black Americans expected nothing less from the final outcome of the trial. We’ve become nearly immune to hearing stories like this and what’s worse is that we’ve gotten too comfortable. It’s great to voice our grievances over the situation, but it’s not enough anymore to simply talk, tweet, and blog about the problem; we must take collective action. And I don’t mean by rioting. What good will that do other than destroying our own neighborhoods? I’m talking about significant action that will create effective change.

    During the Civil Rights era, Black Americans let their voices be heard with their actions as well as words. From the marches and sit-ins to the Sanitations Workers’ strike in Memphis, Tennessee to the March On Washington in D.C., Black Americans came together for a one purpose—equal and civil rights—and succeeded. In this era, we have to stop asking, “What would Martin Luther King, Jr. do?” and start asking, “What am I going to do?” Everyone keeps questioning where the black leaders are. They keep looking to President Obama, Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton to rise up and lead our people. However, leadership and change begins with the man (or woman) in the mirror. It’s paramount that we stop fighting amongst ourselves and start fighting the core problems that plague our communities.

    “If you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and make that change.” –Michael Jackson, “Man In The Mirror”

    As I read the news and scrolled past the angry, sad, and disappointed tweets and Facebook posts, I thought about the Martin family and dozens of other black boys, men, women and girls that have were served similar fates and injustices—from Emmett Till to Oscar Grant, Sean Bell to Jordan Davis, and other countless names that we will never hear about. It’s shameful that it’s 2013 and we’re still fighting the same battles of years passed. The lingering question that resonated in my head was, “Now, what?” Perhaps, you’ve been wondering the same thing. Here are a few suggestions for you:

    • SIGN the petition, requesting the Civil Rights prosecution of George Zimmerman by the Department of Justice.
    • GET INVOLVED in your community. Join your local NAACP chapter. Know who your local, regional and national leaders are and hold them accountable for their actions. Attend your city Town Hall and school PTA/Board meetings.
    • READ. Educate yourself. Learn and know your rights. Knowledge is power.
    • VOLUNTEER your time at your local community center, Boys & Girls Club, school, or church. There are a lot of youth that need our help within our own neighborhoods. Charity starts at home.
    • SUPPORT black-owned businesses. Blacks have over a trillion dollars in consumer spending power. Only 7.1% of firms in the U.S. are black-owned. Before you spend your hard-earned money elsewhere, think about investing in your own communities, first.
    • VOTE. Get rid of that “It doesn’t matter if I vote or not, nothing’s going to change” mentality. That’s precisely what they want you to think. What if our ancestors and grandparents had thought that? Where would we be today? Your vote matters.

    “The world won’t get no better if we just let it be. The world won’t get no better…we gotta change it, just you and me.” –Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes “Wake Up Everybody”

    It’s time to wake up, Black America. WE determine our worth. We have to stop looking to White America for validation and our sense of worth. Racism isn’t going anywhere simply because we have a black president in office. It definitely won’t get any better if we keep being complacent and accepting of how things are. Stop mentally sitting in the back of the bus and being willingly pushed aside. Eliminate the victim mentality and incorporate a victor mentality instead. Our voices are important too! In the 2012 presidential election alone, 93% of African Americans voted for President Obama causing him to win by a significant percentage. That shows that our voices are accounted for.

    I don’t have, nor do I know, all the answers. This was written simply to enlighten and to prompt change.  We’re stirred up and that’s great. However, turn that anger, frustration, disappointment, and pain into passion—passion for our taking back our schools and neighborhoods and for justice with the right to freely live in this country without fear. We may not be able to get the Zimmerman verdict overturned, but we can let this fuel our fire so that Trayvon Martin’s death, and others like his, won’t be in vain. It’s time to be just as vocal about the welfare of our children’s education, poverty, violence, unemployment and other issues that infiltrate our communities. Do not go silent and forget about this once this news fades to black. We’ve been sleep and silent (as a whole) for far too long. Divided we fall and united we stand. In the renowned words of Public Enemy, it takes a nation of millions to hold us back.