A Lesson in Activism

On February 26, 2012, 17-year-old [African-American] Trayvon Martin was shot and killed in Sanford, Florida. The shooter was George Zimmerman, a 28-year-old white man.  Zimmerman admits killing Trayvon  but claims he was acting in self-defense which was said to be justified through Florida's "stand your ground" law.
When the story was first  brought to the national front we were all devastated and heart broken. There were loads of questions. Why wasn't Zimmerman arrested? Was this about race? Was it really self-defense? One question stood out more than others. What can we do about it?

Often times we experience injustices on a grand scheme such as the controversial killing of Trayvon Martin and we become discouraged. We may not have the slightest clue how can "little 'ol me" help bring justice to persons like Trayvon Martin and his family.  Others doubt that their small contribution in efforts to to bring justice will actually be successful. There have been plenty times I have heard people opt out of a protest or a march because "it's not going to make a difference".

29 days ago a petition was posted requesting the public to sign, petitioning the arrest and prosecution of George Zimmerman. Thousands signed and commented in outrage that Zimmerman remained free. One by one we tuned in as rally after rally and march after march proceeded pleading for justice. Students of a school in North Jersey organized a silent march. Hundreds marched through the streets of New York City in memory of and to protest the death of Trayvon Martin, in the “Million Hoodie March.” Marches and rallies sparked all over the country. Thousands posted " hoodie" pictures on social media networks in solidarity.

Democratic Rep. Bobby Rush, of Illinois, was escorted off of the House floor  after donning a hoodie in honor of slain teenager. A teacher was fired from a Michigan middle school after encouraging students to raise money for the family of  Trayvon Martin. Even President Obama spoke about the tragedy.

45 days later, George Zimmerman has finally been arrested and charged with second degree murder. As I watched the press conference I couldn't help to think what if we those that came together in rally for the arrest had the same "it's not going to make a difference" complex? Would special prosecutor Angela Corey be obligated or urged to dig deeper into the case if pictures weren't posted, if we didn't march, if congressmen had not have voiced their concerns, if students did not walk out? In my opinion, NO.

Here is the lesson:

Activism is defined as the doctrine or practice of vigorous action or involvement as a means of achieving political or other goals, sometimes by demonstrations, protests, etc. 

Vigorous is the key word. We cannot expect change without vigorous action. We cannot approach injustice with a complacent mindset, settling for the statusquo and then turn around and complain about our unjust society. Activism isn't always violent. It is not always rowdy and does not always require the presence of law enforcement. During the civil rights movement there were activist who chose not to march or participate in a sit in. They wrote poems,  performed songs with heartfelt lyrics and others wrote letters to the legislature.  The good thing about activism is there isn't just one form. You want change? Find the way that fits you and do it, vigorously.


*this post was originally written and posted on another blog the day after George Zimmerman was arrested and placed into custody. I think it's appropriate to post it here in the news of Zimmerman's bail being set today for just $150,000.