But I have news for George Zimmerman, for his defense team, for the jury, for the supporters of Zimmerman across America, and for those who love to fan the flames of hatred and division. They who hate with their hearts and their minds and their eyes are clinging to the tall tale that Black males are dangerous, immoral, violent brutes, Trayvon. Does not matter if it is you, or me, or Jay-Z, or LeBron James, or Barack Obama. When someone paints you into a corner like that, puts you in a box like that, you do not even have the right to stand your ground, Trayvon, to defend yourself. Anything you do makes you a menace to society, a threat, a problem. Anything. But if we are not free, Trayvon, neither is anyone else. We are all connected. George Zimmmerman may have been found “not guilty,” but he is spiritually and mentally in jail for the rest of his life. And so are the people who support him. I wish nothing bad on anyone, ever, but evil cannot exist freely. There is price to be paid for evil always, and that price are the permanent holes in one’s soul.
Regardless, Trayvon, this letter is for you, not for them. And for the people who are truly willing to listen, and learn. I know from the anger, hurt, and sadness of that verdict has come, in just a few days, an incredible outpouring of support for you, for your family, and a bottomless love for what democracy and justice should look like. My organization and I helped to produce one of the many New York City rallies the day after the verdict, and a massive march that shut down Times Square, Trayvon. And it was not just Black people, or young people, but every kind of human being you can think of was out there for you, crying, chanting, speaking, protesting, marching, demanding that this country, as it celebrates the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, and the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s “I Have A Dream” speech, that we actually live up to who we say we are, in the Constitution, in these symbolic historical salutes.
For how can we, America, even remotely think we can tell nations overseas what civilization should be, what democracy should be, if we cannot get it right ourselves here in 2013? If a young boy like you can be murdered so callously, so casually, like your life is as insignificant as that of a dead insect.
But you are not dead, Trayvon. You are alive; you live because your death is not in vain. Just as how Emmett Till’s despicable murder in Mississippi in was the spark that lit the social explosion that became the Civil Rights Movement, I know we have a new movement afoot in our America, Trayvon, via marches and rallies and Twitter and Facebook and cellphones and every other way imaginable, remixed and rebooted for the 21st century. People are tired of all the guns, of all the violence, be it what happened to you, what’s happening in our inner cities, or what is happening in our suburbs. People, Trayvon, are tired of all the ways we have been and continue to be divided from each other, at how we go at each other throats, on TV, on social media, in person.
Some of us know, Trayvon, that when any society would tolerate this much violence to its own citizens, no one is protected from it. Not school children in Newtown, Connecticut, not runners nearing the finish line at the Boston Marathon, not the horrific attacks on Latino immigrants everywhere. Not an abused woman named Marissa Alexander, Trayvon, who, like you, is from Florida. So many of us turn such a deaf hear to violence against women and girls that while we have marched and rallied for you, a male, this woman is sitting in a Florida jail for 20 years simply for firing a warning shot that struck no one in response to the domestic violence of her husband. Was this woman not standing her ground, Trayvon? Does her life not matter either, Trayvon?
So I know your death is not in vain, Trayvon, because it has brought so many people together. But the trick, now, is to keep us together. It is for us to organize that even as we forever challenge things like racism, which we must, without fear or apology, that we must also learn how to love and honor each other, as sisters and brothers, because that is what we are, Trayvon, that is what we are. And to our sisters and brothers who live in profound denial that racism actually exists in America, we will do what my mother has always said we should do: we will pray for them, and hope that one day they will wipe distorted history from their eyes, wipe hatred and division from their eyes, wipe their deals with the devil from their eyes, and see, Trayvon, that you are the son of us all, no matter who we are.
Finally, Trayvon, your life has become history. There is no way you could have known this when you went to the store that fateful night to get a bag of Skittles and a can of iced tea. There is no way you could have known this when you first felt the rain drops and you put that hoodie on your head. There is no way you could have known this when you first spotted George Zimmerman following you. And there is no way you could have known this when you struggled with George Zimmerman, for your freedom, for your humanity, for your life. His gun may have taken away your breath, Trayvon, but it never took away the mighty spirit you were given. The spirit of unity you gave to those of us who’ve put aside our differences, to say, in your name, enough.
Because in the tragedy of what happened to you, Trayvon, you’ve given us all a reason to understand why we must go forward, to have love and compassion for another, to heal and change America, and this world, with the same determination in which you fought for your life. We have no other choice, Trayvon. We have no other choice—
Kevin Powell is an activist, public speaker, and author or editor of 11 books. He is president of BK Nation, a new national organization. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him on Twitter @kevin_powell