Over the past few weeks, with more media coverage surfacing about the tragic story of 17 year-old Trayvon Martin, I have been saddened, outraged, incensed, upset, and a whole laundry list of emotions that I can’t even put into print at the moment. From the indifference from some within the hip hop community, to the blatant racial overtones that certain facets of the media will portray with this ongoing saga, it is becoming quite evident that there indeed is a war going on outside no man, woman, OR child is safe from. Mobb Deep was only saying, in a language that their generation can understand, what was, and still is, going on. This time, however, the war is not black on black crime, or is it?
Here’s what we know thus far about the demise of a promising young black male. Trayvon Martin was a good student. Trayvon Martin was 17 years old. Trayvon Martin was walking to the house of his father’s fiancee after making a trip to the convenience store. Trayvon Martin was shot and killed by George Zimmerman, a so-called neighborhood watch individual. Trayvon Martin had on his person when confronted by Zimmerman a bag of Skittles and an iced tea. Trayvon Martin did not deserve to die. Trayvon Martin should be alive at this very moment. Now when I said that this “war” is not black on black (or as Kanye would so aptly put it “blacks on blacks on blacks), you have to look at how this type of violence is viewed from a media standpoint. Where is Nancy Grace and those of her ilk with this travesty? During the Casey Anthony debacle, there was constant coverage. However, this type of story is almost being swept under the rug, and why? Is it because there is a small value for the life of a black male? As history shows us, young black males are at the bottom of the totem pole when it comes to respect, at least from a societal aspect. Here in Harm City (or Bodymore, Murdaland), you are constantly inundated at 11PM (or earlier) by news of another shooting or homicide, typically involving a black male. It’s almost like we as a community are numb to this reality. However, this “reality television” is far removed from “The Real World” or “Love And Hip Hop”. The murder of Trayvon Martin (and I am saying murder now because I’m not going to sugarcoat what occurred in Sanford, Florida on February 26, 2012) is now the reality of this world. The murder of Trayvon Martin at the evil hands of one George Zimmerman is not a hip hop love moment. I’m drawing these parallels to state the obvious, or not so obvious. When will we (as in hip hop community) stand up and fight for what is truly right?
I consider myself an activist and advocate within the hip hop community. I have no choice, truthfully. I was born into this culture. I AM HIP HOP. WE ARE HIP HOP. KRS-One was not joking or playing around when he stated emphatically that he was the embodiment of the culture that is hip hop. Even down to the term “hip hop”, it is a movement. Being hip is a sense of cool, being down for the cause. When you hop, that is a form of movement, jumping from one small area to another spot. Put hip and hop together and you have what should be deemed as a cool movement, a movement with a cause. What I have noticed over the past few days is a reluctance by some that are so-called “hip hop heads” to even attempt to stand up for injustice, either because they don’t see the need or value. The Million Hoodie March, which took place in New York City at Union Square on Wednesday, March 21st, showed solidarity as hundreds stood side by side with the parents of Trayvon Martin, Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton. The turnout should have been even greater, in my opinion. As I’ve posted recently on Twitter, if so-called “hip hop heads” are willing to stand in line for the newest kicks or video games, then they should be willing to stand up for injustice. If our foremothers and forefathers risked life and limb for causes to make our existence a better one, shouldn’t we do the same? It’s a different era, but it appears that we are seeing signs of the same “Willie Lynch” mentality, where the life of a black individual is reduced, negated, devalued, or completely ignored.
George Zimmerman should not have the luxury of utilizing a controversial 2005 Florida Stand Your Ground law. In essence, Zimmerman was not arrested because he was acting in self-defense. According to Sanford City Manager Norton Bonaparte, “law enforcement was PROHIBITED from making an arrest based on the facts and circumstances they had at the time.” This statement was released March 21st by Bonaparte as part of a letter addressing criticism of Sanford law enforcement for not making an arrest after the shooting and subsequent death. So Zimmerman is indeed innocent until proven guilty, but in my eyes, he is already guilty. He is guilty of extinguishing a promising life for Trayvon Martin. He is guilty of misusing his so-called authority as a neighborhood watch by targeting a defenseless teenager. How threatened was Zimmerman by Trayvon Martin, a one-hundred forty pound black male, especially if Zimmerman was in excess of two-hundred pounds? Zimmerman has a history of constantly making complaints and calling law enforcement, showcasing a vigilante mentality. This new-aged Charles Bronson wanna-be crossed the proverbial line, ultimately leading to the death of Trayvon Martin. Now we have the the Sanford Police Chief, Bill Lee, “temporarily stepping down”. This sounds more like propaganda than anything else, and I’m not surprised in the least bit. After refusing to arrest George Zimmerman, he now decides that it is time to step aside because he is a “distraction”. A distraction, you say? Distraction is such a mild, tame word when applied to this case. This case is both complicated and simplistic, because you have so many varied emotions and feelings that have been applied. It sickens me on so many levels.
I have a 17 year-old son that could very well be Trayvon Martin. I have a soon-to-be 19 year-old son in the same position. Both are “good kids”. They love music, they are not part of the criminal system, and they are on track to be very productive individuals in this still-racially divided society. Both of my sons can be considered that next generation of hip hop culture. They both are embedded in the musical intricacies of hip hop, often using the trials, tribulations, and ills of society as base material for their lyrics that are penned (or in this technologically advanced society typed/texted). “There’s a war going on outside no man is safe from”, taken from the Mobb Deep joint “Survival Of The Fittest”, is fitting for this saga. Not only are those words prophetic, but connected to the overall tone of the song in general. This third track from the album The Infamous showcased a mentality of urban living that far too many young black males deal with on a daily. Unfortunately, because of this mentality, those living on the outside or periphery will assume wrongly that young black males are up to no good, are criminal element, or are a nuisance to “proper, white society”. I feel strongly that Zimmerman, with his “fucking coons” sentiment shared on one of the 911 calls shared to the public, saw Trayvon Martin as just another hip hop individual that the media portrays as a threat to himself and society. Trayvon Martin was a threat, in my opinion, but he was a threat to the establishment as someone that would transcend his skin tone, and not be just another “nigger”. The –er is placed on the end of that derogatory word to show what Zimmerman thought of this precious life that will not see his 18th birthday.
So, what can the hip hop generation of today do? We all can make our voices heard, no matter creed, color, religious background, gender, sexual orientation, or any other differentiating circumstances. Every one of us has a Trayvon Martin, directly or indirectly, in our lives. Let’s make certain that we speak volumes to stop this from becoming a trend in our society. Trayvon Martin would want it that way.