I felt a twinge of pride yesterday seeing so many protests around the world. From Palestine, to filling Times Square, to blocking freeways in Los Angeles to march; people were upset and wanted justice for a dead child that was not given in the court room. I first learned of Trayvon Martin last winter by seeing a friend post a photo on Facebook with a picture of the boy’s likeness plastered on the front of his t-shirt. After three more posts that were pretty similar, I quickly Googled the name of the boy and learned the story. But what is happening today? One National Association of Advancement petition sent around, a few candle vigils? So many, including myself, have posted pictures, signed petitions, and “Put Up a Hoodie” in support of Trayvon Martin. But that will not bring him back from the dead, nor will it make this event unrepeatable. We cannot stop prejudice or injustice with a t-shirt. So stop trying.
Believe it or not, reports say that so many have begun to sell t-shirts, posters, jackets, cell phone covers, buttons, stickers and hoodies with Trayvon Martin’s photo last year his mother filed to patent her son’s face with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. That company is now called Justice, and yes, it is trademarked. Why do we buy this merchandise? How many t-shirts were posted online before the parent of said child decided to get something from it, as she so rightly deserves? We wear the shirts and hoodies to rally together, to show support, the whole “Say It Loud, I’m Black and Proud, and a Human Being and You Need to Respect Me” thing. We do so because it has happened too often. But it will happen again, and your t-shirt is not going to stop it.
I feel like Trayvon Martin, thanks to modern-day, will not be remembered like Emmett Till or the Scottsboro Boys as a martyr but as a past retail campaign. There are hundreds of posts on my newsfeed, Tumblr account, and Twitter homepage everyday about him. From the inspiring to the girls hoping to get to heaven to suck Trayvon’s dick. No, the last sentence was not a joke, there were several young women who posted on Twitter that they would love the opportunity to do just so the day of the verdict. Unfortunately, we as a society have way more of the later than the positive. Yes it spreads the word, and posting on social sites gives us an outlet for frustration and anger, but it does nothing really to help the cause. Many of us do not know that the cause requires more than a Facebook post, but action that will result in more change than a few Facebook ‘like’ clicks.
Create solidarity in knowing that a young man died and his death was main vain by a justice system that we continue to let exist. ‘The man’ is not holding you down, you are holding ‘the man’ up. You want your justice system to work? Alright, every person that put on a hoodie or a t-shirt, let’s sign a petition to be a part of our justice system in November. Remember this moment every fall when you think about staying at home and sleeping on Voting Day. Research your candidates and vote. When another boy dies based on prejudice, make sure there is someone in the political office that you put there who gives a damn.
The next time you see a booth or store set up selling Trayvon Martin merchandise, ask the questions, “Is this money going to his family?” or “Are these t-shirts going to support local civil and youth organizations?” If not, keep walking. The next time you see young men on the street just walking with nothing to do, give a smile, a nod, and even a “Stay in school” or “Hello” won’t kill you. You see a young person walking by themselves late at night? Yell and ask if they are alright and if they need any help. By teaching our youth to have pride in themselves, they will know that they create the change this world is searching for. Stop trying to create solidarity through shirts and hoodies, because hoodies fade and so does momentous fads based around retail products.