MIAMI GARDENS —Gathering together to form voting blocs and learning more about Florida’s Stand Your Ground law were the main take-aways on a forum about two verdicts involving two dead black teenagers at a Florida Memorial University forum Monday night.
Following the hung jury Saturday in the first-degree murder trial in the fatal shooting of Jordan Davis, the university quickly organized a forum to allow students and the community at large a chance to express their views on the case and how to move forward in a positive way. Neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman’s not-guilty verdict seven months ago in the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin of Miami Gardens figured into the discussions.
“The verdict is a disappointment because of the jury’s failure to hold Michael Dunn accountable for Jordan Davis’ murder. It seems that they disagreed on Dunn’s culpability, which is difficult for the average citizen to believe,” said Tameka Hobbs, an associate history professor at FMU and an organizer of the forum. “The parallels, however, between the Dunn case and the Zimmerman case illustrate the dangerous intersection of race, self-defense and the interpretation in the criminal justice system,” she added. “Our conversation tonight seeks to explore this connection and to work towards strategies to correct the situation. We can’t have yet another Trayvon or Jordan.”
After an argument about the volume of the music coming from an SUV with Jordan and three other teens inside, Dunn on Nov. 23, 2012 fired 10 shots into the vehicle, some while it was driving away. Three of the bullets hit Jordan, killing him.
After 30 hours of deliberations, a Jacksonville jury reported being unable to decide whether Dunn, 47, was guilty of first-degree murder for the killing. The jury, however, convicted him on three counts of attempted second-degree murder and one count of firing into an occupied vehicle.
Hobbs, along with student organization FMU Lions for Justice, welcomed special guest speakers from the Dream Defenders – an organization for youths to join the social and political process – to discuss the verdict and how they plan to develop creative ideas to ensure an incident like this does not recur.
One way, said Sherika Shaw, is for people to get involved in the political process by voting out politicians who block changes to laws like “stand your ground.” “When it came to the verdict, we weren’t surprised. We have a blueprint and are putting it into action. The world is ours, the state is ours, and the [voting] bloc is ours,” said Shaw, 25, youth organizer for Dream Defenders.
The young people expressed frustration with the outcome of the cases but felt empowered after learning that their votes could make a difference to the law. “The verdict of the Jordan Davis trial is frustrating yet surprisingly I am not surprised about the decision made by the jury. Change is ineffective without action.” said Le’Quoyal Graham, 19, senator of Lions for Justice. “We as African Americans and as minorities in general have to be the change we want to see and without action we will forever be in this state of social injustice.”
Incidents like the Trayvon and Jordan cases aren’t new, said the Rev. Wendell Parris, FMU’s chaplain and instructor of Religion & Philosophy. He reminded the audience of Emmett Till, a 14-year-old African-American boy who was murdered in 1955 in Mississippi after allegedly flirting with a white woman.