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Letter to the Community

By John R. Hatcher, III,
President Ventura County Chapter of the NAACP

All of us are still stunned by the recent outcome of the case of Trayvon Martin in Stanford, FL. This verdict divided our nation, by supporting the exploit of the George Zimmermans in the world to shoot first and claim self-defense later. We the people put our faith and trust in the judicial system to hold George Zimmerman accountable for taking the life of a human, and in this case a child. The system failed, not in large part by the jury or the prosecution team, but because of Florida’s ‘Stand Your Ground’ law.

Trayvon Martin’s death is considered a modern day lynching. This verdict was not only about Trayvon Martin, it is about all minorities. Trayvon Martin could have been my child or your child. We want the state of Florida and its people to understand that no life is worthless. Our children’s lives are of value.

We want our children to understand that just because you are black or brown, you have rights as all citizens to walk down a street. They should not be afraid to walk to and from the store or walk down any street in America.

Martin Luther King once said, “…that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

No one should be judged by the color of their skin. The fact is Trayvon Martin as well as many young black and brown males are racially profiled every day.

Minority families pray that there will be a day when we do not have a conversation, a conversation which we all do not like to have but we do so that our children, black or brown, can live. I never imagined in 2013, as a father and a grandfather, that I would have to talk to my grandsons about being a black male living in America.

I encourage you to write a letter to Florida’s Governor Rick Scott, Attorney O’Mara and Attorney West telling them of your fears. Explain to them you are tired of having “the talk”. Tell them how you have to explain to your child, that the world is not colorblind and that as African-Americans we are not always judged on the same standards as others, and that the same rules do not apply to us. Explain to these gentlemen that when you are talking to your children, you have to explain to them how to conduct yourself when you are stopped by the police or someone of authority. Now we have to add in our conversation what to do when a private citizen or neighborhood watch person stops you, who may have a gun on them. Tell them how you raised your children to address an adult with respect, no matter how crazy they may talk to you. Tell them how we instruct our children it is not safe to run, because someone may perceive that you stole something. Write them and let them know that this verdict has sent a message that it’s okay to kill our children and claim it was self-defense. Tell them that Florida has just given the permission to prey on our children, stalk them and kill them.

Furthermore while we are explaining all this to them, we now have to tell them don’t walk too slow because someone like George Zimmerman may racially profile you as a thief because you “look like you are up to no good”; or in the case of Jordan Davis, not to play your music too loud, because someone like Michael Dunn will shoot you and then say it was self-defense because he was in fear of his life.

It is evident the jury did not see a young man who was a junior in high school, barely turning 17 twenty one days prior, raised in a Christian faith home with educated parents, a dedicated father and loving family. When our children are walking home, people may not see or know their self-worth. Again, we ask Attorney West and O’Mara how would you feel if it was your child? As President Obama stated today, 35 years ago he could have been Trayvon Martin.

We need to send a message to these gentlemen, that we here in Ventura County support Trayvon Martin’s family, his mother Sabrina Fulton and his father Tracee Martin. We as a community need to be sure our voices are heard from Ventura County. Join the millions of people of all races: White, Latino, Asian, Black and across the other side of the world to support the Martin family and call for the elimination of Florida’s ‘Stand Your Ground’ law.

In recent letter written by President Ben Jealous to the NAACP Members:

I was in college, celebrating a friend’s 21st birthday. A round of toasts went up. Someone poured libations in memory of all our friends who had been killed or sent to prison. Then, a friend rose to toast one more of us surviving to the age of 21.

The notion that life had reduced my friend to believing it an accomplishment for one of us to merely breathe past 21 sent me reeling.

Our generation of black Americans was supposed to be the first not to be judged by our race or the color of our skin. Instead, we had come of age to find ourselves the most incarcerated on the planet and most murdered in the country.

“Grandma,” I would ask days later, still searching for understanding, “What happened? How did things turn out like this?”

Her response was the crux of my speech to the 104th NAACP convention yesterday. She leaned in and spoke softly, “It’s sad but it’s simple. We got what we fought for, but we lost what we had.”

Now, we must end the plague of gun violence, because 21st birthdays should be celebrations of life, not of escaping death.

We fight to roll back “stand your ground” laws and pass powerful anti-racial profiling ordinances, and do whatever we must to finally end the wars that are killing so many children in our neighborhoods.

We never stop fighting for justice for Trayvon. Your signature is but one voice, and one alone may not be noticed. If the voices of hundreds, of thousands, of millions join together and speak as one, that cannot be ignored.

I have served in the civil rights movement for over 60 years, and when the verdict was read, although I prayed for a guilty verdict, I was not surprised. The verdict only further reaffirms that we still have more work ahead. If you can’t go to a Trayvon Martin rally, show your support by sending a letter to: 1) Attorney Marc O’Mara, PA, 1416 E Concord St, Orlando, FL 32803; 2) Attorney Donald R. West, 636 West Yale Street, Orlando, FL 32804; 3) Office of Governor Rick Scott, State of Florida The Capitol, 400 S. Monroe Street, Tallahassee, FL 32399-0001. Make a difference in our children lives.

In closing, I challenge you to be a mentor, or a big brother or big sister to our black and brown children. Give them some encouragement, uplift them, give them hope, tell them that you love them and care about them. Pay it forward.

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