This is the speech I will be reading on Saturday, February 8th at a memorial for the life of Trayvon Martin...
When the shooting of Trayvon Martin first occurred, and the peaceful demonstrations were held, I grew sick and tired of all the bigoted posts online with articles about teens and shootings across the country, all of them saying the exact same thing: "Why is Trayvon Martin special?" "Where is our news coverage?" "Where is our Jesse Jackson?" "Where is our national court case?" It's the same ridiculous argument time and again trying to downplay the worth of Trayvon and to dismiss the meaning of the case as being part of a larger insignificant picture. And I've got to say, not only is it wrong, it's self-contradictory.
Yes, we should all know how many crimes and shootings occur across this nation, and across the world. And yes, it's a tragedy for every life lost and every victim injured. But to try and make outcry for thousands upon thousands is unthinkably grand and ludicrous. A person can only empathize so much before the numbers lose meaning as statistics rather than individuals.
In the original Civil Rights movement, there were hundreds upon hundreds of blacks killed namelessly, without coverage or outcry that could be heard. Most didn't get attention; most didn't get justice. It was with a single child's murder, Emmett Till, which sparked a media frenzy and helped draw national attention to the larger plight of the black community. And so it is again, here and now, with Trayvon Martin. He is our Emmett Till. Trayvon Martin is a single victim in a larger problem, and stands symbolic for every child murdered, and every act of prejudice we now face.
And for every post trying to demean him and strip his death of it's worth, not only shame on you for raping the memory of a slain child, but also, how foolish are you? The only reason you looked up those articles, the only reason you've found so many other dead children, the only reason anyone is talking about this now is because of Trayvon. Without him, this issue would not be on the forefront of our consciousness as a social collective. And by comparing him and his reach to the deaths of other teens, you only further solidify the truth that he is an icon for a larger battle. He is the flag for a much greater cause. He, his coverage, and his killer, for better or worse, are now the emblems of all the kids killed worthlessly in the streets without reason. And, despite your antagonizing, trying to undercut what he stands for, you're only adding support to his stature.
We come together to honor his life and memory because his murder was unjust, untimely, and unwanted, and should not be taken in vain. Trayvon Martin, being the final, or even just the penultimate device for bringing equality and justice to every man, woman, and child wronged by evil, is only a vessel for a greater change we need to commit to in order to overcome injustice in our society.
My name is Jeffrey Hepburn, and I'm a young writer, graphic design artist, and aspiring filmmaker.