Editors Note: Christina Griffin delivered this speech at the Stand With Trayvon rally in City Heights on Sunday July 15. It came on the heels of powerful critiques of the fraught relationship between black residents and the police and reminders how the Drug War is the new Jim Crow. There were speeches about curfews in City Heights and a call to parents to be prepared to intercede on behalf of their children at school and in the streets. And then Christina Griffin spoke using the power of language itself to remind us what is at stake and what we must remember and what we must do. “You wear a hoodie for me. I wear a hoodie for you.” It was the most moving moment of that rally.
Many of us were here last March in 2012. Not even a whole month after the murder, we mourned the death of and lack of justice for a 17-year-old boy named Trayvon Martin.
Our efforts won the charge and trial of his murderer, George Zimmerman.
Last night, we mourned and rested. Today, we are all here because we want justice for Trayvon!
On that night in February, George Zimmerman took the law into his own hands, shot an innocent teenager, went to court and walked away, unscathed.
We Tweeted, Facebooked, Pintinterested, Vined, and blacked out profile pictures, but what will we do?
Mamie Till-Moble, mother of slaughtered Emmett Till once said, “We cannot afford the luxury of self pity. Our priority is to get on with the building process…” In other words we need to act, hoodies up!
We have always kept them up. As we work to hold our city’s police accountable by community policing– our hoodies have been up!
Fighting for the justice of our sister, Shakina Ortega, who like Trayvon’s family, lost her husband, Victor, to injustice and impatience administered by a judicial system so arrogant, it feels it’s above punishing one of its own or publicly correcting lies–our hoodies have been up!
Because if you think you are only out here for Trayvon’s sake, you are wrong. But if you know Trayvon is not the only man or boy who has been or will be killed affront racially charged intent, hoodies up and keep them up!
An article written a few weeks after Trayvon’s murder attributed the positive shift of association with hoodies to Trayvon. This piece of clothing, especially when dawned by black boys or men, is associated with suspicious behavior and guilt. The hoodies made wearers, the article said, anonymous and unidentifiable.
Those who think our movement trite and dangerous, tell Zimmerman to fear us and his life. Let me be clear, nothing will bring Trayvon back, but violence in Trayvon’s name will kill his memory.
When I heard the verdict, last night, I could not believe it. My partner calmed me with a point he made. He said, just because Zimmerman is not in jail, does not mean his life will be better. He was right. This man, who stalked a teenage boy, making Trayvon feel increasingly uneasy with every look over his shoulder, will have to live out the rest of his days in that fear Trayvon experienced in the last moments of his life.
Today, our hoodies represent a cloaked reminder of racially charged acts people in our community fall victim to. Our hoodies make us equal and anonymous, because not one death will stop until we understand that the victimization of our brethren is the victimization of our self, not until we recognize Trayvon as one of our own. Comrades, Brothers, and Sisters, wear your hood for Trayvon.
Wear your hood for the George Zimmermans to come, who will not be acquitted.
Wear your hood for the men and boys in our area who believe nothing will change if we keep ignoring race as a motive.
Wear your hood for men and boys crossing the border to make a better life for their families, but whose dream is deferred by barbaric killings at the hands of vigilantes who call themselves patriots.
Wear your hood for the men and boys disproportionately locked up for marijuana possession.
Wear your hood for families being deported in the night. Taken from their homes and shipped down South like slaves on plantations.
Wear your hood for our men and boys in Wasco Prison being beat and doubly sentenced by silence and threat of retaliation, by the same officers sworn to protect them.
Wear your hood for women in prisons who are sexually violated and forcibly sterilized.
Wear your hood for schools in Detroit.
Wear your hood for Chicago.
Wear your hood for Texas.
Wear your hood for African-ignored-refugees of California.
Wear your hood because the fight is not over, not until, like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “…justice rolls like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream…”
Wear your hood for me! I will wear mine for you!