Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr. Photo by Brian Carter
The Reverend is in town to shed much-needed light on what he calls, 'the Trayvon Martin in every community'
"Hoodies must become voters," Reverend Jesse Jackson of Rainbow PUSH told the Sentinel in a recent interview.
He is urging citizens who have joined a nationwide movement, sparked by the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, to move their protest from the realm of symbolism to reality. Take action, he said, vote and make sure that laws encouraging racial profiling and justified homicide are completely unraveled.
For his part, Rev. Jackson, along with Rev. Al Sharpton and Ben Jealous, is joining community powerhouses like Magic Johnson, Stevie Wonder and Tom Joyner this evening at the West Los Angeles Church of God in Christ in a call for justice for Martin and others like him, who were "unjustly killed at the hands of others." The rally begins at 5:30 pm (doors will open at 4:30) and ends at 8:30 pm. CNN, MSNBC and Fox News will be there to broadcast live.
"We must turn this pain into power [in the form of] voter registration," he said.
Rev. Jackson called Martin this generation's Emmett Till (who was brutally murdered at age 14 in 1955 for allegedly flirting with a White woman).
"Forces came together in the case of Emmett Till," Rev. Jackson explained.
"In the case of Emmett Till, the three guys who killed him were acquitted. The trial lasted three weeks. The deliberation was 6 or 7 minutes. One juror said that the time they would have gotten wasn't worth the crime, so they walked free.
"What happened was in the case of Emmett Till's mother, rather than just let him lay in a grave in Mississippi, she brought him back to Chicago. She put him in an open casket. People saw his grotesque body and it redefined our struggle. Till was a defining moment for us and in many ways [Trayvon Martin's] parents fighting for him, has taken us to another level of fighting."
Martin was shot in Sanford, Florida on February 26, while returning home from a trip to a convenience store. His killer, Sanford resident George Zimmerman was not arrested for the murder until more than a month after the shooting. Zimmerman was a neighborhood watch captain who claimed that he suspected Martin of being up to no good, since he was "walking around the neighborhood in the rain looking at houses."
Martin had been wearing a hooded sweatshirt or hoodie at the time, which some say was the real reason Zimmerman was suspicious. He claimed Martin approached him and beat him up after a short confrontation. He shot him, he said, in self defense under Florida's 'Stand Your Ground' law, which states that 'a person does not have to retreat before using deadly force in self defense' if he feels his life is in danger.
A cell phone transcript of a conversation that night between Martin and his unidentified girlfriend revealed a more nervous Martin who was concerned that a strange man was following him. His girlfriend had told him to run, when she heard him ask Zimmerman why he was following him, a scuffle ensued and the line subsequently went dead.
"Here's what I'm concerned about," said Rev. Jackson.
"We have in 24 states, the 'Stand Your Ground' law, which is an incentive for vigilantism. Vigilantism has tripled since that law has been in effect. The homicides have tripled. The same people who support 'Stand Your Ground' also support racial profiling laws..."
Zimmerman was finally arrested April 11and charged with second degree murder. He faces a minimum of 25 years if convicted. He is currently out on bail and his attorney has entered a not-guilty plea on his behalf.
Martin's family is expected to join Rev. Jackson and others at the rally, including the families of Oscar Grant (killed by police in Oakland); Kendrec McDade (killed by Pasadena Police who claimed they thought he had a gun); and Anthony Dunn (postal worker killed in an accident with a truck driven by an unlicensed driver who was not arrested at the time).
Reverend Jamaal Bryant, local NAACP president, Leon Jenkins, Rev. Eric Lee and representatives from community organizations will also attend. West Angeles COGIC is located at 3045 Crenshaw Blvd. For more information on the rally contact the Los Angeles NAACP at 310-397-1171 or at