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Florida teen’s killing to yield Memphis youth vigil

“…Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stated in his 1963 Letter From A Birmingham Jail: ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.’ Almost 50 years later, we are still rallying for justice…Trayvon Martin, the 17-year-old Miami native killed three weeks ago, has become the face of that struggle today…”

“…Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stated in his 1963 Letter From A Birmingham Jail: ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.’ Almost 50 years later, we are still rallying for justice…Trayvon Martin, the 17-year-old Miami native killed three weeks ago, has become the face of that struggle today…”

The Rev. Kia Granberry, Church youth leader

Trayvon Martin

Rev. Kia Granberry


The Rev. Kia Granberry is angry and so are many other Memphis-area youth. They will converge on the National Civil Rights Museum on Monday, March 26 – one month to the day after 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was shot down while walking back from a store for some Skittles candy and a bottle of ice tea.

Martin, who was not armed, died not far from the Sanford, Fla., home of his father’s fiancée. His death – termed a cold-blooded murder by the attorney representing Martin’s family – is reverberating in myriad places across the nation, including Memphis.

Racial profiling and the commission of a hate crime, say some, warrant murder charges against 28-year-old George Zimmerman, the armed-security guard who maintains he killed Martin in self-defense move. Zimmerman has not been charged nor arrested.

With outrage and protests spreading and a U.S. Department of Justice inquiry unfolding, some are pointing to what they see as a larger assault on and/or conspiracy against African-American boys and men by law enforcement.

In Memphis, the Rev. Granberry is calling for a prayer vigil on the historic site of Dr. King’s death.

“We have to turn back to fasting, and we have to turn back to prayer,” she told The New Tri-State Defender on Wednesday (March 21) evening. “Petitioning our government is important, but nothing is more powerful than prayer. This prayer is our way of fighting.

“We are declaring through our prayers that there shall be justice for Trayvon Martin. We will no longer stand silently by and allow our young people to be hunted and killed like animals. We won’t stand for it! We call on our God for justice.”

Church youth groups from around the city are expected to participate in the vigil. The gathering in front of the museum will coincide with a prayer vigil of youth in Miami, where an event is being organized by Granberry’s former college classmates.

“We have invited Mayor AC Wharton and our pastors to join us in prayer and support us as we take a stand,” said Granberry. “We wanted this effort to be organized by Memphis youth. We felt it was important for us to make our own statement about our concern for the lives of young black men and our boys. We want our voices heard in this great travesty of justice.”

Granberry, 26, is part of a triumvirate of young women leading the charge for these youth. Charisse Gooden, 26, and attorney Maya Siggers are also involved in the move to unite local youth in the cause.

‘Hated and feared’

Siggers marveled that even in the 21st century, “black men are still the most hated and feared” by others.

“After reading about Trayvon Martin being killed by the neighborhood watch captain who had not been prosecuted, I became disturbed. After the release of the 911 calls and hearing his cries for help those final moments of his life, I began to weep,” said Siggers.

“I sat crying, Trayvon had become my child, and I hurt deeply for all the Trayvons of this country who we have lost too soon. After contacting Kia and Charisse, we knew what we had to do.

“We knew we needed to pray for Trayvon’s family, as well as for all the youth of our city because the challenges they are facing are critical. Our young men are in a battle for their very lives. Our friend who is a recent law school graduate had already organized a prayer vigil in Miami on Monday,” she said.

“It was inspiring to see so many from our generation not just sitting on the sidelines waiting for someone to step up and take the lead. We are taking the lead in serving as a positive voice of hope for a brighter future…

“We will pray for our city and our youth. God will deliver us. The Lord will help us…”

Murder or self-defense

On Feb. 26, in the gated community of Sanford, Fla, an Orlando suburb, Martin was returning from a walk to a nearby convenience store for candy and a bottle of iced tea. Neighborhood watch captain Zimmerman, who police have called white and who has been described by his parents as white and Hispanic, made a 911 call to report a suspicious person.

Zimmerman had reportedly made nearly 50 calls to 911 that month to report “suspicious persons” in the predominantly white community. The known facts indicate Zimmerman began to follow Martin despite being told by the 911 operator not to pursue Martin but to wait on an officer who was enroute.

There are conflicting reports about whether Zimmerman can be heard saying on the 911 tape that “these (expletive) always get away.”

In a chilling account delivered before media on Tuesday, attorney Benjamin Crump, who represents the Martin family, told of speaking to Trayvon Martin’s 16-year-old girlfriend, who had been on the phone with Martin shortly before he was fatally shot.

Martin, said Crump, told his girlfriend that he was being followed. She told him to run and he did, at one point thinking that he had lost his pursuer. Moments later, Zimmerman was behind Martin and refused his girlfriend’s plea that he start running again, choosing instead to walk fast, Crump said.

According to Crump, Martin’s friend hears him ask, “Why are you following me?” There are loud cries and what sounds like a scuffle before the phone goes dead.

Shots ring out and three witnesses who rush outside find Martin on the ground with Zimmerman standing over him holding the gun.

Witnesses said they heard the 17-year-old crying and pleading for his life. However, police did not arrest Zimmerman, accepting his claim of self-defense. Advocates have not only called for the shooter’s prosecution, but for the firing of the Sanford police chief.

A 3-2 vote of no confidence in the police chief came out of an intense meeting involving Sanford local officials Wednesday. It is not binding and it came as protests spread to New York City, where Martin’s parents – Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton – joined a Manhattan march in which their were multiple calls for Zimmerman’s arrest.

“This man ran Trayvon down like and animal and killed him. Zimmerman was standing over his body with his feet spread apart, one on each side of the body,” said Granberry.

“We will stand in the same place where Dr. King was assassinated almost 50 years ago,” she said. “We are grateful for the great strides made with Barack Obama as our President, but we have a long way to go with Trayvon Martin lying dead on the street.”

The National Civil Rights Museum is located at 450 Mulberry Street in downtown Memphis. For more on the vigil, set to begin at 4:30 p.m. on Monday, March 26, call Granberry at 901-692-1900.


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