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More than just Skittles & Iced Tea

BP, Seattle/ We Are Juxt

More than just Skittles & Iced Tea

Foreward by Stephen Bischoff; Photos by BP, Seattle/ Ryan Vaarsi, Los Angeles

There is an incredible amount of introspect that comes from the George Zimmerman trial that just concluded.  As a father of two young boys myself, I can’t help but try to empathize and relate to an iota of what Tracy Martin and Sabrina Fulton have gone through and continue to go through with the killing of their son, Trayvon.  Amongst the many emotions and comments circulating around the case, the disparaging ones that dismissed Trayvon’s life in callous ways hurt me.

Stripped down from all of the debating and reasoning, feelings are what is left for me to comprehend.  As a father, the images that abounded from the case allowed me to reflect on my own youth experience as well as for my kids.  I clearly remember two photos of Trayvon that stirred powerful emotions.  One image that resonated within me was the image of Tracy Martin kissing his son’s head as they both looked at the camera with balloons in the background.  Tracy’s arm slinked around his son’s shoulder with Trayvon’s hat tilted to the back.  Trayvon’s grin was confident and content in that picture while Tracy’s look and posture is one of a protective love with a strong pride in his son.  Although my sons are ages 5 and 2 whereas Trayvon is a mid-teen in that photo, those are the sentiments to which I feel a connection.  The other powerful photo I saw captured a deep sadness, anger, and remorse.  It was the leaked image of Trayvon laying lifeless on the grass with his mouth ajar and his eyes looking to the sky.  His now iconic hoodie was lightly covered with debris while slightly pulled up.  Simply horrifying to see this parent’s worst nightmare.  Profiled as a punk and an asshole by Zimmerman, Trayvon didn’t deserve this.  Nobody deserves this.

RV, Los Angeles / We Are Juxt

The appropriateness of the phrase “We are all Trayvon” has been one of the rallying cries in his remembrance.  At a basic level, people can see how an innocent situation of walking down the street should be an expected right without question.  For me, I can easily picture my sons enjoying an NBA All Star game with me.  Imagining them lightheartedly going to grab a snack from the store down the road just as Tracy and Trayvon had been doing.   For Tracy Martin, those seemingly casual moments together won’t ever be shared again.  Further information came out about the future college plans for Trayvon and all of the potential he had yet his image was ripped to shreds by the defense attorneys and supporters of Zimmerman.  Tracy Martin and Sabrina Fulton had to endure the pain of losing their son over and over again throughout the case as Trayvon appeared to be more on trial than Zimmerman.  Relating to Tracy Martin as a father, as a parent, as a person, how can someone lose the piece that makes us human by degrading his situation further?  How can we as a society be complacent to the physical loss of another human and the moral losses of our justice system?  How do we replace the unaccounted memories, hugs, kisses, smiles, and displays of love that Tracy and Sabrina lost?   How do we restore that humanity?

I don’t know.  All I know is that their family deserves better.  We all deserve better.  I push to be better.  I push those around me to be better.  And so we need to push each other to be better.

Trayvon wasn’t my son.  Yet my sons could have been Trayvon.

BP, Seattle/ We Are Juxt

Seattle

It was a surreal day.  Not quite the same atmosphere that protests in Seattle usually have. The air was charged with more emotion.  There were more people that day who usually didn’t come out the Occupy protests or Idle No More or even the Anti-Monsanto rallies.  There was a difference this time around.

BP, Seattle/ We Are Juxt

BP, Seattle/ We Are Juxt

 

It still had its usual suspects.  The socialist faction. The anarchist – Black Bloc – faction. The people of color revolutionary movement. The white ally contingent. But there were more people out who was out specifically for the Zimmerman verdict. There were a lot more families.  There were a lot more youth and children.

BP, Seattle/ We Are Juxt

BP, Seattle/ We Are Juxt

The day started out with one person on a megaphone.  He was talking about the injustices that had just showed itself after the verdict was announced. Within 30 minutes there were a hundred people and by the time the protest was in full swing, there were about 400-500 people.  Many of which were carrying the “We Are All Trayvon: The whole damn system is guilty” signs. There were also a few makeshift signs, but all of which showing some resemblance of solidarity to the main purpose of the rally.

BP, Seattle/ We Are Juxt

BP, Seattle/ We Are Juxt

It was emotionally charged.  There was a passerby who protested the protestors.  He confronted the protestors.  It was contentious.  A lot of name calling. “You are all racists. This case had nothing to do with race but you are all making it an issue.” He proceeded to yell these sentiments and in between would do the “Hail Hitler!” motions. Protestors engaged with him and arguments would ensue. Not only was he arguing on behalf of Zimmerman, but he was also African American.  It definitely showed the division of America during those moments.

BP, Seattle/ We Are Juxt

BP, Seattle/ We Are Juxt

There was an African American grandmother who was in front by the stage.  She had her mantra ready for the day and it resonated with many of the Zimmerman protestors, “Quit hurting our children. Trayvon was one of our children.” This was one of the main messages of the day; Trayvon could’ve been anyones child.

BP, Seattle/ We Are Juxt

BP, Seattle/ We Are Juxt

The protest continued through the day and outside of the Zimmerman supporter it went unhitched. It went peaceful and for me it was real cathartic.  I have my strong opinions about the verdict.  I’ve been a victim of racial profiling by the police. I’m a father of a boy of color who will eventually grow up into this world. A couple days after the rally, I connected with my friend.  He’s dubbed the “mayor” of Seattle because of his involvement with the hip hop community for many years. We both broke bread and talked about our lack of surprise of the verdict and more surprise for our own complacency of the overall issue of racism. The introspection hasn’t led to full insight just yet.  I know I needed the rally and to be in the same space as everyone. Even as I look through my Facebook timeline, there are a lot of people going through the rollercoaster of emotions much like the protestors did that Sunday. Today, one of the posts on my FB timeline read, “I’m just sad today. Sad for Trayvon’s mother and father.”

I think that’s where I’m at also.


BP, Seattle/ We Are Juxt

Los Angeles

I first noticed the chopper around 6:30. I couldn’t tell if it was a news copter or an LAPD airship and no one else at the corner of Crenshaw and MLK Blvd. seemed all that interested. If it was the cops, it was their only presence at our location. A could of dozen black-and-whites blew through the intersection at various points in the evening, but otherwise LAPD seemed to be keeping their distance. Which was a blessing as far as I was concerned. There was good energy at Crenshaw/MLK and a heavy police presence could have fouled it.

RV, Los Angeles / We Are Juxt

RV, Los Angeles / We Are Juxt

RV, Los Angeles / We Are Juxt

There was an open mic and a steady stream of people using it. There were the usual imprecations for calm and against the skewed system of justice. There were calls for peace, calls for prayer and calls for change. There was a general sense of anger shot through with heavy doses of hurt cynicism, but the general vibe was peaceful while I was there. There were moments of ope. Hope that this will finally be the clarion call, the back-breaking straw. More than a couple of people used the phrase “American Spring.”

RV, Los Angeles / We Are Juxt

RV, Los Angeles / We Are Juxt

RV, Los Angeles / We Are Juxt

There was also a great weariness. Trayvon Martin is not the first black man who’s death has been given the imprimatur of the American justice system. His is a story as old as Emmett Till, Amadou Diallo, Sean Bell and the millions who came before them. Those names were all spoken during the course of the evening in speeches, freestyle poems and a couple of epic rants. People questioned priorities. About how pop-culture takes precedence over community. How sharing your outrage on Twitter and Facebook isn’t the same as taking concrete action.

RV, Los Angeles / We Are Juxt

RV, Los Angeles / We Are Juxt

RV, Los Angeles / We Are Juxt

About a mile and a half north people had begun filing on to the eastbound 10, bringing traffic to a halt. Around the same time marchers began making their way down the middle of Crenshaw. Signs were waved, banners borne and slogans chanted. A group of drummers pounded the beat and drivers honked their support.

The word is that things got testy later in the evening as the procession moved into Leimert Park and the police decided to make their presence felt. And Monday night’s rally became a melee that ended with arrests and injuries. Which is both unfortunate but certainly not a first here in the Southland.

RV, Los Angeles / We Are Juxt

RV, Los Angeles / We Are Juxt

RV, Los Angeles / We Are Juxt

3 Comments

  1. So much that I can say about what I see in these photos. . I will just sum it all up as awesome! Great captures!!

  2. A lovely, compassionate and fantastic set of photos and words. Let’s hope something changes for your guys in the US around these issues, although our world seems to be getting more and more polarised.