Hundreds of hooded Sacramento residents gathered Thursday evening in William Land Park, and I was one of them. Men, women, and children of all colors joined in mourning and justice for slain Florida teen Trayvon Martin.
I was taken aback by the display put on by the community. It was a sight to see as young people and adults alike showed up baring t-shirts and signs in protest, calling for the arrest of the known gunman, George Zimmerman.
There were speakers designated and the rest was loosely organized. Unfortunately, it was hard to hear a lot of the messages being pressed because instead of using the sound system that appeared to be set up on the stage, people resorted to using megaphones. It gave it that real “protest” kind of feel, but some of what was being said was lost in translation.
The show of children was remarkable. I was pleased to see so many kids out there aware of what was going on. With that being said I was also upset at the noticeable air of marijuana lingering throughout the crowd. Here we are standing for justice and some people can’t put it away for a few hours, not even in the face of our children. But if I had to guess, not everyone was out there for the welfare of the kids.
About midway through the rally, I saw a young man holding up a t-shirt that said “I am Trayvon Martin”. It was moving because the young man was white and having spoke to him he realizes he could never be Trayvon Martin but wanted to take a stand just the same. However, the feeling of being moved quickly turned to one of disgust when I saw that he had bought the t-shirt from a guy who was selling shirts, DVDs, and who knows what else. Profiting off the death of this young man and taking advantage of the people who wish to make a difference makes you a real scum bag in my book. But this along with the weed smoke was not enough to kill the spirit of change. I endured while making fun of the people engaged in these activities in my head. It was an easy fix until it was time to listen to the speakers, who also seemed to have their own personal agendas.
I found that even though this was a rally surrounding the injustice for a Florida teen, people wanted to still belittle it by making it about blacks, other causes, or the happenings in their neighborhood. There was a good amount of time spent dealing with the problems of Del Paso Heights. One gentleman who had some good points cheapened his message by interjecting his involvement with the occupy movement, making the enemy the 1%. It felt almost like the feeling you get when you are sitting in church and the pastor breaks for the third or fourth time to pass the collection plate. It was irritating.
I found myself running out of patience. It came to a head when a man got up and spoke and was doing a lot of finger pointing. The police do this, the law makers do that, this is what “they” should be doing. It got to me.
Do I think that Mayor Kevin Johnson’s presence would have been felt at the rally? Yes I do. But we all know he is so busy missing city council meetings and building this new arena, where would he find the time to get out with the people?
Am I proud and concerned for my neighborhood and want a safe place for my kid and all the other kids on the block? Yes. But I also know that this problem is bigger than any neighborhood in Sacramento and it is not going to help matters if we put a boundary or a color on it and expect others to follow suit. If we break this problem down to any sub group it needs to go to our families, because up until now that is what is lacking in our communities.
Do I think police do things wrong and there are cops who unfairly target certain groups? Yes I do. But I also know that we have just as much of chance of finding those officers and changing the way they feel. Not all cops are bad cops. And for those who feel we would be better off without the police I will tell you to your face that I would rather deal with a few crooked cops than a world of criminals any day of the week. Then it hit me.
All this talk about what others should be doing got me thinking “yeah, but what the hell can we be doing differently?” How long can we point the fingers at those we know do wrong without writing the wrongs in our own lives? How long can we sit and wait for a change to come without taking ownership of the things we want to change? It is so very easy to sit and point the finger at what’s wrong with the system and lose sight of the most obvious…we are part of that system!
The saying “be the change you want to see in the world” never really hit home for me until today. Stop waiting for people to do things for you and do them for yourself. If we are tired of our young men killing each other and dying in the streets then let’s stop blaming the world and get them out of the streets. If we are sick of being unfairly profiled and tired of being targeted, then don’t just be the exception to the rule, change the rule. If we are sick of our children failing in school, then do something to help out with your schools. We cannot expect people to give a damn about our lives if we ourselves do not give a damn about them.
All of this was going through my head and I wanted to say it so people would hear it. I had my reservations as I have a knack for being loose lipped and profane which does not tend to go over too well with the church going folks of Sacramento. I was well on my way to say something anyway, but before I could a young lady stood up and said it for me. Accountability was her message, and I can say that for me…hearing her talk was worth all the hoopla that went along with the rest of the rally. Could I have still gotten up there and said the exact same thing she did? Sure. But there was enough of that going on.
More speakers got up after her and the group marched onward but I had heard what I hoped would be said at not only this rally, but the other rallies across the nation today. The only thing disappointing was the turn out. I wish there would have been more people.
While I understand that people have their reasons for not protesting and the court of public opinion often reminds us of how ignorant and evil some of us can really be, I am doing my best to remember these things. The reason there is an outcry right now is not because of the history of Trayvon Martin or George Zimmerman. It is not because of what might have happened that night. It is not because of what we think happened that night. It is going on because a young man was murdered after being pursued by another man who was told not to do so by emergency dispatchers, and he was not arrested. Add to that the wrongs being done to our children everyday and you have yourself the beginning of something.
All in all I can say that this rally was a start. And while I feel that Sacramento has a long way to go as far as a city wide sense of unity is concerned, I am proud to have been part of this movement and I will continue to be part of this. Not just for the sake of a young man who was murdered in Florida, but also for the young lady missing from Morgan Hill, for the young lady found murdered in Rosemont, for the missing baby from right here in Sacramento, for all kids all over that deserve a chance. The chance that these kids did not get.
And at the end of the night when I was back home with my family, reflecting on the events of the day, I felt good. Even in the face of some one-sidedness, weed smoke, and the young folks who were out there just to socialize. I looked around and saw something more awesome than people realize. I saw us out there, supporting each other in agreement and disagreement, wearing our hoodies and looking suspicious as hell, some of us were probably criminals and some of us were high as a kite but what was awesome about that is that with all of that going on…none of us had to worry about being shot by neighborhood watch. Thank you Sacramento.
By Sergio Villarreal