I must admit something I am not proud of. Everyone has lives that they get caught up in and with the Removing the Bars conference beginning TOMORROW, one can imagine how busy we have been. Unfortunately because of how busy I have been, I have barely paid attention to the news around Trayvon Martin. I have heard his name and mentions of hoodies and injustice and kept telling myself I would look into it soon or later or after I finish something else. But that is not how these things should be handled. I am the Co-Chair of the Criminal Justice Caucus at Columbia University School of Social Work. I was not only ignoring Trayvon’s memory, I was ignoring the values of social justice I seek to embody and impart and the goal of furthering awareness of the infinite problems of our criminal justice system.
We are proud of the conference we have been instrumental in organizing but part of our role as student leaders in a social work school is to make sure that what is happening NOW is seen, recognized, and addressed. I was reminded of this when my C0-Chair mentioned that she wanted to write something to acknowledge the situation with Trayvon Martin and find a way to bring it into the conference.
I missed the Million Hoodie March yesterday so I will be wearing my hoodie to the conference tomorrow night and Saturday as will my Co-Chair. I encourage anyone else who is interested to join us.
Please see my Co-Chair’s message below. Thank you.
-Ronin A. Davis
Co-Chair of the Criminal Justice Caucus 2011-2012
Rarely do I communicate on the list serve, but a recent event has
been weighing heavily on my heart. On Sunday, February 26, Trayvon
Martin, a 17-year-old high school student was killed by 28-year-old
George Zimmerman. Because Trayvon looked suspicious to Mr. Zimmerman,
he alleged to have shot the teen in the chest in self-defense. Trayvon
was unarmed. What pains me most about Trayvon’s story is he was in an
upscale community visiting his father, Tracy Martin. Mr. Zimmerman
called police stating that Trayvon appeared mischievous. Despite law
enforcement’s instruction NOT to pursue Trayvon, Mr. Zimmerman
confronted and shot him. So, to Mr. Zimmerman, Trayvon looked as
though he did not belong to a community here his father is a member.
I am not a parent, so all I can do is imagine how Mr. Martin
feels to have worked to live in a community where his “neighbor”
violently decided that his son was not welcome. Mr. Zimmerman has not
been arrested nor have any charges been filed against him. Therefore,
I can only empathize with Sybrina Fulton, Trayvon´s mother. How must
Ms. Fulton feel to have a child slain and for law enforcement to
respond that his assailant has a college degree and was a student of
criminal justice? These thoughts and a host of others and an onslaught
of emotions render me speechless and heart-broken.
As the co-chair of the Criminal Justice Caucus and a student of
Social Work, I feel obligated to acknowledge Trayvon Martin. I would
be remiss to allow the Removing the Bars 2012 Conference to begin and
end without addressing such an egregious act of violence and
misappropriation of justice in favor of Mr. Zimmerman. Yesterday, in
New York City and throughout the nation, were Million Hoodie March
rallies in the streets and on social media. In the Million Hoodie
March participants sported hoodies either in the street rallies or in
Facebook profile pictures. Therefore, I compose this letter with what
I believe is a simple request. I ask that those attending the Removing
the Bars 2012 Conference join in solidarity with Trayvon Martin, his
family, his community and other adolescents who are told, constantly,
they do not look like they belong. One way to express this solidarity
is to wear a hoodie tomorrow night and/or Saturday, as I will be doing
in commemoration of Trayvon Martin. Because this year’s conference is
a ‘community collaborative event’ wearing hoodies in his honor
or other demonstrations of support would be in line with the spirit of
Removing the Bars: TAKE ACTION. So please spread the word.
Thank you all for reading this letter and showing your support.
Criminal Justice Caucus Co-Chair, 2011-2012