Whose Son Next?
(i.m. Trayvon Martin 26th February 2012)
A boy’s walking back to his dad’s
girlfriend’s place in Sanford, Florida
with a pack of Skittles, can of Arizona
iced tea from the 7-Eleven for his bro,
in time for the NBA All-Stars game.
Earphones in, he’s chatting to his girl,
oblivious; it’s early, no-one’s around,
no reason for vigilance.
A man cruises by in a truck, self-appointed
neighbourhood watch vigilante,
George Zimmerman, looking for trouble;
thinks his luck is in, he’s found it.
He calls 911, reports a real suspicious guy…
up to no good, on drugs or something.
It’s raining and he’s just walking around
looking about. This is Zimmerman’s
46th 911 call since the New Year.
And he’s a black male… something’s wrong
with him… got something in his hands…
These assholes, they always get away.
Shit, he’s running! The operator thinks
he’s left his vehicle to run after the male.
Are you following him? Yep.
OK, we don’t need you to do that.
Trayvon tells his girlfriend a stranger’s
following him. She tells him to run, hears
him say, What are you following me for?
The reply, What are you doing round here?
She hears shoving and the line goes dead.
It is 7.16pm. Police arrive on the scene
at 7.17. Trayvon’s lying on the ground
fatally wounded, a bullet in his chest.
Freeze-frame the scene right here. Imagine
you’re a cop who’s just jumped out.
A black boy is on the ground, barely alive,
a man’s brandishing a gun, admits
he shot the youth but claims self-defence.
You’ve seen crime dramas, know the score;
paramedics try everything, police cuff
the gunman, get statements off neighbours
who called 911. Wrong. This is Florida: the law
allows anyone to ‘stand their ground’, fire
a gun if they think they’re under threat.
The man’s not breathalysed, arrested or charged.
Nicknamed Crazy-Legs because he never sat still,
the boy will be taken to the morgue in a body bag,
his corpse tested for alcohol and drugs – negative.
Despite slurring his speech, Zimmerman goes home.
March 2012 and still no arrest: hundreds
of students at Trayvon’s High School hold
a walkout in support. A white supremacist ‘s
hacked Trayvon’s email and twitter, making
selective posts on The Daily Caller and Gawker
to suggest violations, violent tendencies.
The day before the funeral in Miami,
more than a thousand queue to view
Trayvon’s remains, pay their respects.
2.2 million sign an online petition, seeking full
investigation and Zimmerman’s prosecution;
police still claiming no grounds for arrest.
Trayvon’s parents, Tracy and Sybrina,
contact Benjamin Crump, civil rights
attorney, who takes on the case, pro bono.
The Million Hoodie March is held
in Manhattan, against racial profiling
of non-white youths in hoodies.
Media coverage of Trayvon Martin
overtakes reporting on the presidential
race. Obama goes on record – If I had
a son he would look like Trayvon.
Romney calls for an inquiry so justice
can be carried out… with integrity.
Whose Son Next? Page 3
44 days on, Zimmerman’s arrested
and charged. In June the Martins deliver
a petition with 340,000 signatures asking
for changes to the stand-your-ground law.
The task force eventually reports back,
recommending against repealing the statute.
July 10th 2013, the case goes to court.
Zimmerman pleads innocent to murder
and manslaughter. On July 13th
the jury – 6 women, 5 white, 1 black –
agree and acquit him. Obama says Trayvon
Martin could have been me, 35 years ago.
A girl posts online – black lives
matter – the message goes viral
and a movement is born.
3 years after the shooting, the US Justice
Department closes its investigation,
will not bring a civil rights charge
as the killing was not race-based,
not motivated by hatred. Trayvon’s
parents’ hearts are broken again.
Is this where the story ends?
Well, no. Tracy and Sybrina set up
a foundation in Trayvon’s name
to support other parents who’ve lost
their children to violence.
Rest in Power takes 5 years
to write. We don’t portray
Trayvon as being an angel…
but he was our angel.
Zimmerman sells the gun
he used to kill, online,
for 138,900 dollars,
claims some of the proceeds
will be used to fight
Black Lives Matter violence
Whose Son Next? Page 4
against law enforcement
officers. He’s currently suing
Trayvon’s parents for 100 million
dollars for defamation, conspiracy
and malicious prosecution
in the Trayvon hoax.
In the picture I have of you
the pale grey hood of a sweatshirt
haloes your adolescent face.
You could be any age between thirteen
and seventeen, faint line of hair
on your lip, ghost of a future moustache;
that vulnerable, frightened stage boys
go through. I should know – my son
was nine months younger than you
when you were killed.
The wary look, retreating into
the hoodie’s safe space.
Over and over your eyes
How could you let this happen?
I didn’t have to teach my son
to be frightened of all white men,
especially on streets after dark;
the drill for being stopped by cops –
hands in the air, call them sir, ma’am,
keep your voice low, respectful
and never, ever answer back.
What I can do now is honour you, Trayvon,
and all the other Americans who lost
their black lives and for whom justice
was found wanting. Your lives mattered,
they matter and I can no longer stare at
your photo and say I did nothing.
Annie Wright is a founding member of Vane Women, the writing, performing and publishing collective based in northeast England. She runs poetry workshops in southwest Scotland and edits for several presses including Vane Women Press.