More than 200 gather in Warner Robins for Trayvon Martin candlelight prayer vigil

chwright@macon.comJuly 19, 2013 

WARNER ROBINS -- At what looked more like the setting for a family reunion, more than 200 people gathered at the Houston County Annex for a candlelight prayer vigil for slain Florida teenager Trayvon Martin.

As the crowd relaxed in chairs and on blankets in the grassy area in front of the Warner Robins building, speakers talked about injustice and being involved in the church and community. Even a bit of spoken-word poetry was shared.

It was a different kind of atmosphere for a vigil, one of hundreds around the nation in the aftermath of the acquittal of the man who shot and killed Martin.

“We wanted a more relaxed atmosphere ... to feel a connection to the community,” said Fenika Miller, of New Vision Inc. A rally, “to some people, causes division.”

New Vision, a social issues activism group, and Joshua Generation, a group of young local ministers, organized the Houston County vigil. It was billed as “Candles for Justice: Lifting up Prayers and Lighting up the Night.”

It was the third Middle Georgia event to join the movement. Another will be held at noon Saturday in Macon, as part of the National Action Network’s call for 100 cities to march to federal buildings. It will be held at the United States District Court for the Middle District of Georgia, on Mulberry Street.

Miller said there was more support for the Friday event than for the local march planned after Martin’s death last year sparked a national outcry against racial profiling.

A jury found George Zimmerman, who said he shot Martin in self-defense, not guilty of second degree murder last week. Communities have railed against the verdict, some believing Zimmerman racially profiled Martin. Marches, rallies and vigils have been held nationwide.

“The verdict really shocked everyone.” Miller said. “This time pastors came to me,” Miller said.

Miller said the idea of the Houston vigil wasn’t to point blame or “gloss over the issues.”

“We want people to calm down,” she said. “We want everybody to unite for people of all skin colors.”

Jennifer Arnold, of Warner Robins, stood with seven boys, two of them her sons. She said she wanted her sons to attend the event to show support and learn that injustice can happen to anyone.

“It’s not just about color,” she said. “But it could have been them. You just have to live the best you can.”

She said her family knows how Martin’s family feels right now, because her brother’s killer was given a five year sentence last year -- too short in their opinion.

Arnold has spoken with her sons about injustice in the wake of both verdicts and about how the boys can curb their behavior while being aware that inaccurate judgments could be made about them.

Kerry Arnold, her 17-year-old son, said he and his friends used to go out after dark a lot to play basketball. Lately, not so often.

“What if somebody came by and profiled us and decided we were doing something wrong?” Kerry Arnold said.


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