‘Hoodie march’ organizer hopes Trayvon Martin's death will inspire black community to action

jwilliams@macon.comJuly 16, 2013 

About 75 people marched from Macon’s Central City Park to the federal courthouse Tuesday afternoon, chanting “No justice, no peace,” and “Stop the violence.”

Some carried signs that said “I am Trayvon” and “Stop the killings,” among others.

The march was organized by Rasheedah Caldwell in the wake of a Florida jury finding George Zimmerman not guilty in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin. Caldwell said the event was not about Zimmerman, but instead was a call to action against injustice and violence.

“I feel like Trayvon Martin is a modern day Emmett Till,” Caldwell said, referencing the 14-year-old boy who was killed in Mississippi in 1955 after allegedly flirting with a white woman. Caldwell said she hopes Martin’s death will similarly spark the black community to be more active by expressing their voting and constitutional rights in a civil way.

Calling the event a “hoodie march” was symbolic, she said, and she didn’t expect people to wear them in the heat, although a few young men did. Nathaniel Rhodes, 22, said he wore a hoodie because he “is Trayvon Martin,” invoking the now-common phrase.

“That could have been me walking down the street,” he said.

Denishia Wynes, 19, said she joined Tuesday’s march because it was a good cause.

“You have a lot of people on social networks voicing their opinions, but you don’t get a lot of people getting out and doing something,” she said.

Natalya Thornton, 36, said she attended the march with her 14-year-old son because she doesn’t agree with the jury’s verdict.

“It’s not a racial thing to me, but it’s my opinion that justice wasn’t served,” she said.

Charrick Williams, a 34-year-old Macon native who now lives in Perry, said he came to Macon to fight for young people in the community to help prevent similar situations.

Harriet Hughes, 49, said simply, “We want our voices heard.”

Just after 4 p.m., the crowd left the park and walked down Walnut Street, purposefully past the RiverView Ballroom, where 17-year-old Jammoni Bland was fatally shot earlier this month. When the crowd arrived at the courthouse, they continued chanting before Caldwell urged them to be active in the community and proactive in trying to prevent violence. She also urged the crowd to learn and exercise their constitutional rights.

“This is not about politics,” Caldwell said. “I don’t care if you’re a Democrat, Republican, Libertarian. You all have the same color blood: red.”

The event’s nonpolitical message was lost slightly when Macon-Bibb County candidates former Mayor C. Jack Ellis and Councilwoman Elaine Lucas also urged the crowd to exercise their voting rights.

“Even though we say it’s not about politics, it’s all about politics,” Ellis said.

Ellis said the jury that tried Zimmerman, none of whom were black, was not made up of Martin’s peers.

“They did not understand the world in which he lived,” Ellis said. “It was easy for them to stand in the shadow and say not guilty.”

Ellis said juries are made up of registered voters, and he reminded the crowd that they and their peers will not be on a jury if they aren’t registered.

Lucas also urged the crowd to exercise their voting rights and elect people who represent their community. But she also emphasized the importance of education in building a successful community.

“Books and the ballot, that’s my challenge to you today,” she said, before the crowd began to disperse.

Prayer service

Later in the evening, about 80 people attended a prayer service about the Zimmerman trial at Greater Friendship Missionary Baptist Church on Rev. J.L. Mills Way.

The Rev. Stephen Summerow, pastor of the church, said it was important to make the gathering about prayer and not protest.

“There are those that will use this as a tool to divide us. We need to make this a tool to bring us together,” Summerow said.

Four preachers said prayers on four topics: unity, understanding, love and peace.

During his prayer about love, the Rev. Walter L. Glover took issue with the jury’s decision.

“We’re here because six women couldn’t see plainly,” he said. “This is about a lack of love, a lack of compassion, a lack of humanity.”

Summerow asked the audience how many of them had to explain the trial and verdict to their sons and several hands went up.

“I had to have a talk with my two sons about how to conduct yourself and not because you’re doing anything wrong,” he said. “That’s something we’ve lost. We’ve gotten away from that, teaching kids how to conduct themselves.”

Many in the audience said “amen” when Summerow mentioned how easy it was to see young males in the community who don’t know how to conduct themselves.

LaTonya White, a member of the church, said she was glad the service was all about prayer.

“We need to have more prayer. It’s praying time. Prayer changes things,” she said.

Staff writer Harold Goodridge contributed to this report. To contact writer Jaime Williams, call 744-4331.


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