I am a 6’7, 250 pound, Black serial hoodie wearer. There is almost never a time that I leave home without wearing one, aside from any formal occasion. It’s often a favorite choice of mine to wear and you’ll find me wearing one in many photos. But in light of recent events I have to wonder if my love for a very common fashion accessory coupled with my brown skin could one day lead to my untimely death the way it has for you.
For weeks I’ve sat with the knowledge of your story without speaking publicly about it like I have with many other issues on many other occasions. A part of me was reluctant to fully digest the story and process what I was told to believe as truth. Because then I would have to face the grim reality of the world I still live in and the challenges myself and other young Black men still face today. I’m ready to face it.
You see, my name is also Travon. And when I heard and began to see the face of a 17 year old kid who not only shared my name, but also a very close resemblance to myself as a kid all over the internet and television was gunned down, heavily armed with a can of iced tea and a bag of Skittles, well it kind of hit close to home.
The name we were both given sounds exactly the same, the only difference being that your name is Travon with a Y. Which in my mind begs the question, WHY? Why did this happen to you? Why does this happen to anyone at all? In a country where some White Americans hollowly echo the name Barack Obama in their “house built upon sand” logic to scream “look how far we’ve come, we elected a Black president so racism no longer exists” it is both difficult to cope with, yet easy to understand.
Myself and so many others ache for you and those like you who everyday suffer the same demise yet their names go unmentioned. We’re often reminded of specific individuals like Oscar Grant, Sean Bell, and Amadou Diallo not because their lives were more valuable than the many lives lost that go unnamed everyday, but because in my mind, they serve as bearers of light, keepers of the gate of injustice. Stories that scream out to us and serve as a constant reminder that though we may have come far, we still have so much further to go. Unwillingly you have become one of these exaulted names.
Because you wore a hoodie you were deemed suspicious. Only to be gunned down to no fault of your own. I listened eerily to the 911 tape and heard you yell and scream for your life, begging for help but to no avail. As the tears welled up in my eyes I could only wonder, WHY? Why was no one brave enough to come when you called? Our minds can race in a thousand directions wondering what could have changed anything that would have you here with your family today and me not sitting and writing this post mortem ode to your life. All because your hoodie deemed you “real suspicious.” but no imagined scenario will return you to life.
One day I’d like to have a son of my own and I know that being the parent of a Black boy in America will never come with the same rights, privileges, peace of mind, and from the looks of how your case has been handled thus far, equality or justice as a White parent. The comfort of knowing my child isn’t perceived as inherently criminal. The ability to sleep peacefully knowing that if my child encounters law enforcement(or community watch leaders. Seriously?) it wont be shoot first, ask questions later. Or maybe ask none at all.
To equate being Black while wearing a hoodie with being a suspicious criminal, worthy of being gunned down with no repercussion to the perpetrator, is akin to saying being a woman dressed in an overly sexual manner deems her worthy of being raped with no repercussion to the rapist. It’s their fault for provoking carnal emotion(fear and lust) into their attackers.
I desperately wanted to believe that an event such as the election of a Black president would unite people in a way never before seen, to further bridge the gap between Black and White America, fostering a culture of vast curiosity and invigoration to better know each other as human beings. It appeared that way for about 48 hours. But what has really taken place is that an historic event such as the gift of a Barack Obama has instead created an extreme polarization that has divided us in a way we’ve not seen since the 1960′s. A time when a story like yours would at least make much more sense.
You were armed with nothing more than a hoodie, iced tea, and Skittles. They don’t hold up well to George Zimmerman’s 9mm pistol. I use to believe that when you shot someone in the chest and murder them that you’re supposed to be arrested. You were hunted down against the wishes of 9-11 dispatchers, gunned down, and killed. Your family grieves while George Zimmerman’s family makes excuses. All the while still retaining his freedom.
Every so often a story like yours comes along and reminds me of my place and what it means to still be Black in America. I hope and pray that there is justice for you and that this and every other story and article about your life reaches as many people as humanly possible. I can’t speak for the rest of the world, but I will never forget you and your story. Because every time I see, hear, or speak my own name I will be forever reminded of yours. And there will always be that lingering Y?Follow @Travon
Zimmerman 9-11 Call:
9-11 call of Trayvon Martin begging for his life: