MIAMI GARDENS — Still reeling from the fatal shooting of a teenager who would have celebrated his 19th birthday Feb. 5, hundreds of residents joined celebrities, community leaders and relatives who lost loves ones to gun violence to remember Trayvon Martin’s life with a peace march and rally.
The demonstrators renewed calls to repeal the controversial “stand your ground” law. Shouting, “I am Trayvon Martin,” his parents, Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin and his brother Jahvaris Fulton, held up a banner showing the teenager in his famous hoodie as they led about 800 marchers through the streets near Carol City High School which Trayvon once attended.
They were joined by actor Jamie Fox and civil rights activists at an emotional rally at the Betty T. Ferguson Park, 3000 NW 199th St. Participants in the second annual Peace Walk and Peace Talk Summit.
Sponsored by the Trayvon Martin Foundation included Glenn Forshee, whose daughter Tequila was killed last year after bullets ripped through his home. The parents of Kendrick Johnson, the Georgia teenager whose corpse was found rolled up in a mat in a high school gymnasium, also attended the event.
They were joined by demonstrators, some from as far away as California, to march a mile and half alongside grieving mothers and fathers struggling to remember Martin while coping with their own losses. A crowd of supporters including members of Greek letter organizations and churches, along with community leaders cheered them on to the beat of the Miami Norland High School marching band.
“We have to walk in peace and talk in peace,” Tracy Martin said. “My son’s legacy has galvanized this country to seek for peace.” “It’s all about keeping his memory and life alive,” added Trayvon’s aunt Rhudine Wiley. “What was done to him was an injustice. Things need to change.”
Foxx explained his stance: “They say, ‘Jamie why you got that Trayvon Martin shirt on? That ain’t in no more. I say, well, Trayvon Martin is still dead and his mother still grieves and his brother is still wondering, ‘Where’s my brother at?’”
Foxx, who spoke at a similar rally last year, said he has committed to Martin’s parents to attend the demonstration every year. Shamara Bryd came down from Tampa to march with Arlene Byrd, whose son, Kijuan, was killed in 2012 at a nightclub after a white security guard, Lukace Shane Kendle, opened fire on him and his friend, Michael Smathers.
The friend survived but is paralyzed from the waist down despite several surgeries. Kendle claimed the “stand your ground” defense and was not initially arrested until pleas from the family on television drew outrage from the community.
Kendle remains in jail on first degree murder charges at the Miami-Dade County jail as his pre-trial hearing drags through the legal system.
“The family is still going through the healing process,” Byrd said “I’m very grateful he is in jail.” In another “stand your ground” case now winding down in Jacksonville, a white man, Michael Dunn, is on trial in the fatal showing of 17-year old Jordan Davis. Dunn has claimed he fired in self-defense when he fired several shots into the SUV in which the teenager and friends were sitting. He was initially angered by their loud music and said he thought he saw one of them with a shotgun.
Local demonstrators and civil rights leaders across the country are closely watching the Dunn case, hoping for a conviction instead of the acquittal that came when Trayvon’s killer George Zimmerman was tried on murder/manslaughter charges.
“There is a lot of disparities in the justice system when it comes to race and color,” said Aricka Taylor, a third cousin of Emmitt Till, the teenager whose mutilated body in an open casket sparked national outrage. He was killed in Mississippi in 1955 by several white men. “Blacks are not getting the same type of treatment as whites,” said Taylor, who came for the rally.
“We can’t stand for it,” the Rev. Gregory Greer said as he marched in the demonstration. “We have to build, network and support each other.” On the same day as the rally, Zimmerman was scheduled to take part in a celebrity boxing match against rapper DMX, reportedly to pay his legal bills, according to The New York Daily News. The event however was cancelled due to public outcry and critics who accused Zimmerman of capitalizing on his fame at the expense of the victim.
“If you consider yourself a celebrity after you have killed someone, then something is wrong,” said Tracy Martin. Community leaders and radio personalities also used the rally to speak out against gun-violence.
In addition to Foxx, the rally was attended by Gina Belafonte, daughter of famed civil rights activist and entertainer Harry Belafonte, as well as syndicated radio host Michael Baisden. Also participating was Cephus Johnson, uncle of Oscar Grant III, an unarmed 22-year-old who was shot in the back by a Los Angeles police officer who was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and served two years in jail.
ERICK JOHNSON/FOR SOUTH FLORIDA TIMES
MARCH FOR TRAYVON: Travon Martin’s parents, Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton and brother Jahvaris Fulton, lead a rally for peace in Miami Gardens on Saturday.