Sunday, March 25, 2012

A Prayer of Purpose, Thanks, and Humility

"Help me, O God, to see that I'm just a symbol of a movement...
Oh, God help me to see that where I stand today,
I stand because others helped me to stand there
and because the forces of history projected me there. 
And this moment would have come in history 
Even if M.L. King had not been born."

Martin Luther King, Jr.
11 August 1957

A Tale of Two Trayvon's

Trayvon Martin

Trevonne Winn
Many of us have been bombarded with coverage of the case of 17-year old Trayvon Martin—and for good reason. From all the available information it is a situation that highlights how the United States is still a nation tragically governed by a psyche of racial stereotyping, fear, ignorance, violence, and dehumanization—particularly with regard to African Americans. This situation is not merely a “Black Thing” however. This situation is one that all Americans should take “with the seriousness that it deserves,” as President Obama mentioned in his comments to the parents of Trayvon Martin, Friday.

Since the case broke, there have been excellent articles written by journalists and bloggers from all over the country. Add to that the outpouring of television coverage from mainstream media outlets as well as local and regional news. Moreover there have been several well-publicized rallies and protest marches and even more planned in the coming days, I am sure. As far as I know most of the interest developing over the last two weeks was largely spurned by the attention given to Trayvon Martin by social media networks like Facebook and Twitter. I have not written anything before now because I did not feel the need to do so. As I wrestled with my emotions, trying to understand why there was another high profile killing of a young Black man, I did not know how my voice would necessarily add to the national discussion outside of my tweets urging others to read up on the case, be informed and act in solidarity—that was until I heard about Trevonne Winn.

After informing a close friend of the Trayvon Martin case last week, he initially thought I was talking about the case involving Mr. Winn, which I was as ignorant of as he was Trayvon Martin. Trevonne Winn was a 24-year old, African American man murdered on the streets of East Flatbush, Brooklyn—in New York City almost a year ago. According to reports, Mr. Winn was in New York City visiting family and his life was taken because of mistaken identity. His grizzly murder, which is better described as an execution, was captured on surveillance cameras where he stood outside a local fast food restaurant. While talking on his cell phone a man emerged from the shadows and fired two shots into Mr. Winn’s chest. He was pronounced dead later at Kings County Hospital. The video was graphic and just mind numbing given all the thought and discussion about Trayvon Martin.

After watching the surveillance video, local news coverage, and reading about the case in several New York papers, I immediately thought about his family—especially his mother, Tracy Winn. Hearing her explain how she had to come from South Carolina to see about her first-born child was just gut wrenching. I thought about Trevonne’s twin sister, and his children and girlfriend he left behind as well. What had he done to deserve such a fate? The quick answer is nothing. To date, I do not think the killer of Trevonne Winn has been identified or brought to justice.

When I think about both these tragic scenarios I think about the unnecessary loss of life. Both of these young men were minding their own business and were taken from their families in an instant. The difference was that another Black man killed Trevonne Winn and thus, his murder did not garner the type of national media attention that Trayvon Martin has.

Tracy Winn and her family did not have Rev. Al Sharpton standing by to comfort them during a national press conference. There was no “Million Hoodie Rally” or loud outcries on social networking sites. President Obama was not asked about how he felt about the tragedy. There was no TODAY Show interview with Matt Lauer. There was just the Winn family alone.

Last week I tweeted that Trayvon Martin’s death was emblematic of larger issues. I still stand behind that statement. My prayer is that we collectively get just as outraged in our local communities about wanton violence perpetrated by Black men against our fathers, brothers, nephews, cousins, friends, and loved ones typically over four feet by four feet plots of concrete over where we duel to facilitate our economic crimes, as we do about cases that make national headlines. It is easy for us to talk about and rally behind the senseless deaths of Yusef Hawkins, Oscar Grant, Sean Bell, and Travyon Martin. They are just a few of the national stories about young Black men murdered unjustly and senselessly.

We need to start seeing ourselves in those who have fallen victim to crimes and injustice and seek to find sympathy with the families that doesn’t just say, “I’m sorry for your loss,” but that says, “I’m going to work to make sure we do not have to bury another young man taken from his family and community due to violence—no matter the color of the shooter.” Trayvon Martin and Trevonne Winn were both my brothers. And both would have looked like President Obama’s son. They are both me.

It shouldn’t take a national outcry for justice to be served—or for us to care. Let’s make sure that our collective energy is used to seek justice; but let it also used as a proactive measure in declaring the respect of our humanity to those who seek to oppress and destroy our families and put such little value on human life.
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Negrointellectual by Vernon C. Mitchell, Jr. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at