BY COUNCILMEMBER LEROY COMRIE
Since the tragedy in Sanford, Florida that took the life of Trayvon Martin, we have seen an outcry of public support for the Martin family and a strong call for justice. Many residents informed me that they wanted to express their outrage and frustration because what is happening in Sanford is also happening all over the entire country. They wanted to know what they could do to help.
I was proud to co-sponsor the “March for Justice” this past weekend with the Commission on Social Action (COSA) to educate our youth on their rights and to bring the community together. I did not hesitate when Vivian McMillian, president of the 113th Precinct Community Council, contacted me about hosting the march. We wanted to inform, empower and encourage our community to ensure that all our residents are aware of the information available to protect themselves. We also wanted to send a message of solidarity and show our desire to see justice done in the Trayvon Martin case, and in other cases involving youth and gun violence.
That over 1,000 people participated on a rainy day demonstrated that people were determined to send a message that George Zimmerman, who shot Trayvon Martin, should be arrested immediately, and that our community is tired of seeing injustice in the legal system towards minority groups.
On the night of February 26, Trayvon Martin was going home to watch basketball, just like many other teenagers do. He encountered George Zimmerman, a self-appointed “captain” of a community watch group who was carrying a gun. As we have seen and heard from the tapes that have been released from the Sanford Police Department, we know Zimmerman was told not to follow Martin, and while Zimmerman is claiming there was an altercation, he was the one able to walk away without any help or visible injuries.
Zimmerman does not represent the majority of New Yorkers or Americans who have friends from different backgrounds and cultures that have come together with their individual skills and knowledge to make the United States the greatest country in the world. Zimmerman is an example of the reasons why there is still much more work to be done to eliminate racism and profiling in every form and push back with all our voices when injustice occurs. The fact that Zimmerman is still free is sending a dangerous message that a child’s life is not valued by those who are in position to ensure they succeed or fail.
We need to give our children the confidence, knowledge, and skills necessary to be leaders. Whether wearing a suit and tie or casually dressed in a hoodie, a young person should be able to walk the streets without fear for his or her life. There needs to be a renewed focus on providing alternative recreational, cultural and educational activities throughout all communities to keep our children positively engaged.
As long as I am in public office I will continue to ensure our government helps empower people and does not restrict individual liberties. We need everyone to make a conscious effort to become educated and participate in their community in a positive way. However, you do not have to be a member of the city council or any other political body in order to make a positive impact on another person’s life. The real impact starts at home. Parents need to be actively involved in their children’s lives by turning off the television and asking their children if they’ve done their homework. Community residents can get involved by participating in civic service events, by volunteering in their neighborhoods or at their places of worship. All of these activities can help create opportunities to help our young people reject the negative forces that are always trying to endanger their safety and well-being.
The “March for Justice” was a great example of a positive action to show that as we continue to seek justice for Trayvon Martin, we must remember that it is up to all of us to make sure tragedies like this don’t happen again.