"And though it’s been too long, and too many years have passed, and though the time has gone, the memories still hold fast. Yes, as strange as it seems, we still live in the past. The essence of a black life, lost in the hour-glass."
The song was part of the soundtrack for many African Americans who came of age in the 1960s and ’70s. You can YouTube it, of course — Is anything not on YouTube these days? — but I find it therapeutic to pull out the LP once in a while, and stick it on the turntable given me a few Father’s Days ago by my youngest son — another of those sons and daughters who, to paraphrase President Barack Obama the other day, could have been Trayvon.
And ever since we came to this land, this country has rued the day, when we would stand as one, and raise our voices and say: You know there won’t be no more killing, and no more talk of class. Your sons and your daughters, won’t die in the hour-glass.
Brian Jackson and Gil Scott-Heron’s 1976 A Toast To The People concludes with their harmonizing tribute to David Walker, to Martin King, to black mothers and fathers who live in pain.
I’m preparing a toast to a new people, a new coalition, for whom Trayvon Martin has paid a dear price to spark new movement among humanity.
That coalition includes people around the world outraged by the death of the teenager who was guilty of no more than walking home while black; people outraged by a jury’s acquittal that was predicated, by all appearances, on their believing George Zimmerman, Trayvon’s killer.
“George had a good heart,” said Juror B37, as she endorsed the casual racism in the premise that one can be an aggressor, initiate a confrontation, kill, and claim to be standing your ground — especially if you’re the only witness. As she spoke of how Trayvon caused his own death, and dismissed his right to self-defense, could she even conceive of the possibility that perhaps Trayvon did absolutely nothing wrong?
Alas, anyone who has served on a jury in a major case or covered or followed one, knows that there should be a sign on the courtroom door saying: “Solomon Doesn’t Work Here.” In this case the judge and prosecution didn’t want to go near race — while the defense subliminally exploited it to deadly effect.
With the judge incomprehensibly ruling out any mention of the obvious — that Trayvon was racially profiled by Zimmerman — and with the prosecution hamstrung and outclassed, the all-woman jury clearly needed a Rosa Parks willing to sit until justice was done.
Instead, the defense sold a construction that fit jury members’ sensitivities, if not let them sleep at night, while the deceased victim was morphed into a criminal.
Meanwhile, back in Reality, USA, during an infrequent visit to Facebook, this jazz man stumbled upon some hip-hop sensitivity that Trayvon might have appreciated, shared here verbatim:
A lot of folk are mad, surprised, hurt…and a bunch of other emotions about the verdict. Many of you fooled yourself to believe that somehow America isn’t America, as if you didn’t know it’s roots.
I innerstand your pain…you were hoping for better; you may have forgot about the countless ancestors and people alive today who had suffered all kinds of injustice at the hands of this judicial system and country as a whole (and why)…but now that you have once again been reminded what you should’ve instinctively known…don’t become a reactionary.
The game aint change…just the name. The plays and players remain the same. If you waited for the verdict to start doing something…it’s time to catch up with reality cuz you are behind. If you talkin bout rioting and ish like that, you are not thinking wisely.
When you are dealing with a sickness…you don’t fight the symptoms…you fight the disease. When you’re dealing with a complex problem…you seek solutions that address and rectify it at it’s roots.
You wanna do something? Kill the demons in your range! Start with self! How active are you in your own community? What do you allow to program your mind and thinking? What can you do as an individual and what DO you do as an individual?
The war been on…but if you waitin to personally feel the heat from the fire, it’ll be too late. Aint no body got time for that! Be about it or be a coward….we should already know all about the problems we face…we shouldn’t need to be reminded anymore. We should be actively participating, building, discussing and creating SOLUTIONS.
Plus never forget…all of this is an illusion, so don’t get caught up in it. The only thing real is Spirit…and it is on the side of the riteous. No worries…now lets get back to work!
The words came from another who could have been Trayvon, but whose perception makes me proud of my investment in him as a father.
And as we listen closely, and look around, we may just hear and see another generation stepping forward, like a John Lewis in Selma and a Nelson Mandela in Soweto. Because it’s past time for a new generation of David Walkers, Martin Kings and Rosa Parks, who support their country and its institutions, and know it’s past time to get it right.
Barack Obama is just a sign. As is the Obama Coalition — of young and old, male and female, of diverse ethnicities — that the mass media can’t seem to see in their rush to white vs. black.
This is new and different, never before seen in history. Evidence the diversity in the ongoing “stand your ground” repeal sit-in at Gov. Rick Scott’s office. Note, from the myriad Justice for Trayvon rallies, the photos of white women of varied ages carrying signs saying, “Racism killed Trayvon,” “young black men are not the enemy, racism is,” and “because if someone had stalked & killed my sons, we’d call that MURDER.”
“No Justice, No Peace”? How about “No Justice, No Seats” — from city hall to the state house to the White House.
The kids are making a start. Others not planning to leave the planet anytime soon should gird them up, with “Trayvon” having become their metaphor in the ongoing struggle for justice.
C.B. Hanif, an award-winning writer, editor, journalist and former news ombudsman, is managing editor of the South Florida Times.