When I think about the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, I think about all the young black people back in 1963 whose footsteps were powered by their pain.
And their dreams.
Many, like U.S. Rep. John Lewis of Georgia, then a member of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee and the youngest person to speak at the march, made their way to the National Mall, their flesh still stinging from billy club beatings and hits from high-pressure hoses, their ears still ringing with slurs from racists.
Yet they didn’t give in to the hopelessness that such violence was intended to induce. They fought it. And because they fought it, they ended the unjust laws that would have kept them stuck at second class status.
But here we are, 50 years later, and the violence and discouragement that many young black people who marched on Washington endured is plaguing black youths again.
The difference, though, is that while the 1963 marchers who were beaten by racists saw it as the price of a better future, many of the black youths who are killing each other en masse in cities like Chicago can’t quite see that future through the haze of an unemployment rate of 42 percent and other issues.
And because they are acting on their hopelessness, they are, unfortunately, giving lawmakers excuses to create more unjust laws that are, like the segregationist laws of old, designed to keep them in line.
Laws like the one which got Trayvon Martin‘s killer, George Zimmerman, acquitted.
At the National Association of Black Journalists’ Convention recently, Benjamin Crump, the attorney representing Trayvon’s family, said that a focus of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington will be on justice for Trayvon, which includes a push to amend Stand Your Ground laws and to stamp down teenage violence.
The laws are on the books in 26 states. They basically give citizens the right to use deadly force if they think they are being threatened – meaning they can “feel” threatened by a black kid wearing a hoodie like Trayvon or a Middle Eastern kid talking in Arabic.
While Zimmerman claimed he shot Trayvon in self-defense, Crump said that Florida’s Stand Your Ground law was included in the jury instructions, and played a role in his acquittal.
“When we talk about Stand Your Ground laws, we’re talking about what they really are,” Crump said. “They’re shoot first laws, make my day laws, they encourage people to take the law into their own hands.
“As Trayvon’s parents have said, over and over again, our children have the right to walk in peace.”
Already, Crump said, a petition by Change.org has collected more than 2 million signatures. The Dream Defenders, a group of young activists consumed with making change and not jokes, staged a sit-in at the Capitol for 31 days. They left with a promise from House Speaker Will Weatherford to hold a hearing on the law this fall.
They also plan to be back to register voters.
It’s heartening that so many young people felt so strongly about the unjust law that helped Zimmerman get away with slaying Trayvon that they made life uncomfortable at the Capitol for a month.
But what’s less heartening is that rather than deal with the issues that disproportionately fuels much of the violence among black youths, lawmakers would rather use their suffering as a justification for laws like Stand Your Ground; laws which essentially make it easy for people like Zimmerman to get away with killing kids like Trayvon because society has bought into the stereotype of the scary and violent black male.
So I hope that this year, on the anniversary of the march that changed the nation, more young black people will follow the lead of people like Lewis and the Dream Defenders, and channel their discouragement into activism. I hope that when they march, they understand the new racism that is working against them through these new laws, and pledge to dismantle it.
Or, at the very least, not give it any help.
Tonyaa Weathersbee is an award-winning columnist based in Jacksonville, Fla. Follow her @tonyaajw. Or like her at www.facebook.com/tonyaajweathersbee.
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This Week’s Celebrity Instagrams (10/15-10/21)
31 photos Launch gallery
1. Just a NY girl with BIG dreams....
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2. HAPPY CHILDREN=QUALITY PARENTING. We don't always see eye to eye on everything and that's normal. We're human beings. But we come together and do it right for what's important, the kids. We are not enemies, we are parents. And we are parents 1st. S/O to @monyettashaw for making Mason's bday memorable. S/O to @itscrystalsmith at home taking care of our other lil' Prince. ❤️❤️❤️ THIS IS WHAT CO-PARENTING LOOKS LIKE. #Blessed #Happy #AboveTheDrama #BiggerThanUs
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3. So happy to finally be able to share with you all that I’m the new Global Brand Ambassador for @Revlon! Follow my day on RevlonSnaps. Yay! Choose Love, Everybody! #RevlonXCiara #chooselove #ad
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4. Glam on point!!!@makeupbymotoko & @shaylinjoneshair #easybreezy @lifetimetv #beachesmovie #january2017 😘
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5. ✨True love ✨📸: @jessiemarrerophotography
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7. Today was not easy..but by the grace of God we all got through it. Words cannot express our gratitude for all of your Prayers, Positive thoughts and Support for us throughout the years. Tommy will be missed but most certainly never forgotten...And PLEASE don't ask "Where's Martin?.." he was there too...just not in this picture. Lol! God bless you all.. #LoveConquersAll #MartinShow
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9. West coast get ready for #RockyHorror. I will be live tweeting again. #letsdothetimewarpagain
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10. #THEKEYS pre order yours now ... Available everywhere #NOV22 #WeTheBest 🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑🔑
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11. We about to ROCK at #KCABlackBall!! All for our life-changing effort to end 🌎 AIDS.
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12. Today's #SNAPJACK is brought to you by @yazzthegreatest 😂😂😂💋💋💋
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13. Damn girl you kinda old to be headed to the Go Go. You coming in at the age they leaving. LMAO
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14. Daddy daycare B-Boxin with @acewellstucker @shopraisingace
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15. #FBF Naviyd & URV "LIL MONSTERS"
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16. HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ONE OF THE BIGGEST LEGENDS IN OUR HIPHOP HISTORY! @snoopdogg CONTINUED BLESSING AND LOVE FAMILY!!!!! REAL OG!
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17. Thank you for a beautiful night VSU! Let's do it again! #HOMECOMING
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18. Had a great time this morning with my familia Erica, Griff & Truth!!
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19. Check out my interview on @essence facebook live. #inmyownwords #nycpromo #day2
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20. #She💋 #tbt #TheCoveAtTheAtlantis #DawgPawsAndAll
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21. Bae #retailtherapy
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22. Why me and @coryhardrict got the same pose... and notee... new mouth #naked
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23. When my husband is my personal 'hype-man'! it kills me every time! 💜😂 #WHATNOW #lostfiles📷
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24. Diggy Simmons
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25. Hand full of @jacquieaiche 💙💎💍 @esnail_la 💅🏾
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26. SuperSoulers! You can watch my interview with Carl Lentz live from my Facebook page, tomorrow at 11a ET| 8a PT. #SuperSoulSunday
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27. 💋 .. When the friendship is easy like Sunday morning. ☀️
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28. Sunday mornings are the best........... hugs and cuddles with my angel
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29. #huggar16 #hellohuggars
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30. My gym is everywhere!.. #RnBMoney #TheGeneral 📸: @twelvepastseven
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31. Nothing I would rather be doing... Rocko setting up our movie, Romelō working on a puzzle & Laiyah singing and sharing all she's learning at school... I'm so grateful for the joy they've brought into my life ... Praying for peace , joy & love in the home of EVERY family ♥️ #HeadScarfPJSunday LOL 😂
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