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 (11/26-12/2)
30 photos Launch gallery
1. Little Legend and Puddy 😍😍😍😍
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2. "You on point Phife?" "all the time,Tip". 💥 #bannedfromnormal
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3. Vegan! The Impossible burger at Crossroads
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4. Lawrence #BeforeandAfterEpisodes 1-4: 184lbs 13% body fatEpisode 8: 196lbs 8% body fat S/O @coachdaveboxing with the works outs and @kildareriordan with the nutrition
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5. Jus haaaanngin out
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6. Meanwhile back at home in Atlanta GA someone mad they not on the 🛳. 😳
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7. No limits... Photo cred: Chris Bridges @ludacris
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8. new new
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9. Apparently my 260lbs is too much for the actual vines in the Hawaiian jungles to hold me without breaking and me falling hundreds of feet. So for safety purposes, I'm forced to swing thru #Jumanjj on wires strong enough to hold 12 adult buffaloes and 1 adult Rock. #OnSet #Jumanji #IronicallyIEatBuffaloDailyForLunch #MoreManThanNatureKnowsWhatToDoWith
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10. hey ma! 🎎#wcw 💙
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11. Surprise visit to our factories!!! #GoodAmerican #USA
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13. Peachy Keen 🔥✨⚡️
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14. If this don't look thankful I don't know what does. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. #UltraBlessed #24kMagic #SweetPotatoFly
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15. Late nights @nbcmarlon with the writers... we in here!!!
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16. There goes my baaaaaaaaabbbbyyyyy #QueenKingMagic!!! We're up to something! Ira BIG!!! Stay out our buisness -
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17. You want to win every game you play but when you come home to these faces... who cares. #ILoveYouGirls best part of my day, everyday!
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18. Steady,steady..... full size jenga.. "I got this one "???? Or do I ?
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19. Cornrows kind of day 😉@dontaysavoy2 you convinced me and I love. ❤️️
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20. #BrotherlyLove #tbt
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22. #basel #TeamLOVE @kingcombs
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23. Just introduced a special screening of @directher 's groundbreaking (must see) documentary @13thfilm with my brother @themichaelealy | @unitedblackout #blackoutblackfriday
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24. Me & Vanessa Williams giving #DuckLips #Pose on the set of #DaytimeDivas @vh1 - Coming Soon to a tv near you. Lol. - My make up done by @makeupsurgeon
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25. This picture just makes me wanna praise the Lord, you hear me!!!!!! Yes Lord brotha #TEDDYCAMPBELL What a #man !!! You are everything right on this picture husband ......... #gorgeous #stylish #classy #strong #masculine #king #sexy #debonair #gentlemenstyle And that #bible in your hand just seals the deal for me (probably cause i know that, that is what helped you become just as amazing as you look😘). While my heart and mind experiences the goodness of God at #church on Sundays, my eyes experiences the goodness of Teddy😍. Amen somebody🙌🏽. "Bless the Lord oh my soul and all that is within me bless his holy name" #myman #myhusband #goodman #blackman #dapperman #godlyman #goodfather #mybestfriend
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26. Yesterday was my mama's 53rd birthday!!!!! Got to celebrate with her all day. If this is what I have to look forward to I can't wait. Looking like a soft bucket a cocoa butter. Yaaaaaaaaaas! 😍😍😍 love you mommy!
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27. "Shout out to @PureAtlanta for getting the family right"....I'm loving this jogger. 😍😍
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28. This pic warms my heart ❤️ #myLogiebeans and aunt aunt umba @itowandabraxton 😘
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29. You will always be my baby😜. #HappyBirthdayReginae #mybaby18
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30. GC "Gods Child" Red on Red SweatSuit available now at www.MonicaApparel.com ... Take Your Crown wherever you go!! I'm pictured in a Medium... Go to the site now for other options ... cc: @trukernell
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