Behind Bars

On the Killing of Trayvon Martin

By Lynne Stewart

I am going to start out with an apology. And I am directing it most sincerely to Trayvon’s mother who is bearing a burden no mother should ever have to—the sudden violent death of her child. But, I most respectfully, must disagree when she states that this is not a “white and Black thing.” It is. Just the latest in a long series of Black and white “things” that have been happening ever since the first Black person was ripped from all he knew and loved and transported unwillingly, as a chattel slave from Africa to serve the Europeans (whites) in America. The “things” I speak of are the victimization and oppression of Blacks by whites who are certain that they face no punishment, no retribution, for the outrages they commit. Close to 400 years after the first crime against Black humanity—slavery—was committed, there is a direct and unbroken connection to the recent events in Sanford, Florida and the murder of Trayvon Martin.

Do I exaggerate? I don’t think so. I have lived 72 years, fifty of them in the movement and repeatedly we mourn and attend funerals and memorials for the victims of an unjust authority—be it police, Neighborhood Watch, KKK, Nightriders or just your everyday white folks who know there is nothing to stop them. Back in the ’60s the murder of Clifford Glover in the 14 Street subway station by police, while graffiti-ing was the horror and outrage of the day. So many have followed I have lost track but I can never forget Eleanor Bumpers in the Bronx, Alberta Spruill of Harlem, Ben Cheney in Mississippi. Nor can I forget the mothers who fought for justice. Margarita Rosario, whose son was ordered to the floor by two NYC detectives and then was shot at close range. Juanita Young, whose son, after protesting the death of Amadou Diallo, was murdered by NYPD on a tenement stairway. When the cop was questioned, he said he didn’t know why he did it. Both Juanita and Margarita had to deal with a Bronx District Attorney that called both murders “justifiable homicide.” In November of 2011, in White Plains, a 69 year old Black man with a heart condition, an ex-Marine and Corrections Officer was shot dead in his own home by local police, for no reason. There are so many other victims. The “Stolen Lives” project now numbers in the thousands of murdered persons, mostly young, almost all of color. So this is an old, old problem.

I, for one, in the words of Fannie Lou Hamer, am sick and tired of being sick and tired. We are always the victim and it seems that by not recognizing what MUST be done, we have abdicated away, piece by piece, our humanity. There was a brief but golden period when brave Black men took upon themselves the protection of the community—let it be known that they would respond in self defense, to anyone who was an aggressor of the people. And for that period when it was made clear that those who thought that they could get away with murder could not, and would be met with equal and appropriate force, the number of racial murders decreased. Now many of these Black heroes are in the prisons of the oppressor suffering long sentences on trumped up charges with little or no chance of coming home to the community they attempted to protect. Am I exaggerating? Were Franz Fanon and Malcolm X wrong when they spoke of the need for self defense? Do we not understand the value of asserting our humanity and ceasing to always be the pitiful victim?

I am raising this issue because it is particularly sickening that this punk Zimmerman should have invoked this defense against an unarmed teenager, who posed no physical danger to him. Were the situation reversed we all know who would be in the deepest darkest cell awaiting a possible death penalty. Instead Trayvon is dead and the true “perp,” who wasn’t wearing a hoody but who was and is a coward hiding behind the “mightiness” of being a white man in white America, walks free. Can this be tolerated?

The community is weeping tears of blood. The exploiters have arrived now in limos, will seek out the cameras, and will leave in limos, having performed the latest phase of “keep cool.” Exploitation for personal gain—now confounded by unscrupulous members of the community against the suffering of real people—can’t they understand that this ultimate question of color it could be their son or granddaughter lying bloodied and dead? No, their own greedy needs and those of CNN, etc., are more compelling to them.

So we continue to live in this America where school children, Black and white, recite “with liberty and justice for all,” and the reality in towns, cities and gated communities in Florida is the opposite. Only a resolute and proud, emboldened Black community can throw off these chains of fear and oppression and assertively stand up rather than groveling, yet again, to an unjust system.

—April 8, 2012

Write to Lynne Stewart at:

Lynne Stewart #53504-054

Unit 2N, Federal Medical Center, Carswell

P.O. Box 27137

Fort Worth, TX 76127

Write to Lynne Stewart Defense Committee at:

Lynne Stewart Defense Committee

1070 Dean Street

Brooklyn, New York 11216

For further information:

718-789-0558 or 917-853-9759