February 26 was the ninth anniversary of the death of Trayvon Martin. On the evening of February 26, 2012 in Sanford, Fla., Martin was walking home from a convenience store when George Zimmerman, a volunteer neighborhood watch captain, got out of his truck, confronted and shot the unarmed 17-year-old boy.
Zimmerman remained a free man until April 2012 when a charge of second-degree murder was brought against him by a special prosecutor appointed by the former governor of Florida, Rick Scott. However, the trial would not begin until June 2013. On July 13, 2013, Zimmerman was acquitted of all charges brought against him. This verdict spurred debates about the prevalence of racism in America and ultimately led to the beginning of the movement known today as Black Lives Matter.
BLM was founded by Patrisse Cullors, Alicia Garza, and Opal Tometi, who have built this movement into a space that fights to counteract the violence and racism that terrorizes the Black community. Their intent is to create a united front of allies to stand up against white supremacy, affirm the lives of all Black folk, and work towards a future where Black lives are no longer victims of systemic biases.
On July 19, 2013, former President Barack Obama addressed the country on Trayvon Martin in a White House press conference.
“When Trayvon Martin was first shot, I said that this could have been my son,” the former president said. “Another way of saying that is that Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago and when you think about why, in the African American community at least, there’s a lot of pain around what happened here, I think it’s important to recognize that the African American is looking at this issue through a set of experiences and a history that doesn’t go away.”
During the summer of 2020, civil unrest erupted as the world witnessed the murder of George Floyd at the hands of a white police officer. On May 25, 2020, Minneapolis police officers arrested Floyd after a convenience store employee told the officers that he tried to purchase cigarettes with a counterfeit $20 bill. An eight-minute 46-second video surfaced online of Dereck Chauvin, a white police officer with the Minneapolis Police Department, kneeling on Floyd’s neck and ultimately ending his life.
Allies and activists came together to call for justice and reform, including here in Fullerton. Black Lives Matter was no longer just a movement but a rallying cry as the Black community voiced their frustrations with the persistence of racism in American society. It spurred reflection in many people and accountability to be taken within many organizations and individuals who had overlooked the issue.
Young Black men are taught at a young age to understand the consequences of their actions. They are made aware of the injustices that threaten their lives, which come at the cost of many before them losing their lives.
The calls for justice, equity, and systemic reform continue. The legacy of Trayvon Martin sparked a global fight of liberation and remains a constant reminder of the work that must be done to eradicate racism once and for all.