(pictured above: Attendees and participants march around the church’s parking lot Sunday.)
Ministers and congregants alike donned hooded sweatshirts Sunday afternoon at Emmanuel Baptist during the church’s Second Annual Trayvon Martin Commemorative Service.
Young attendees began the service with a 1960s-style march in the church’s parking lot. Many carried signs with messages remembering Trayvon, the black unarmed teenager whose Feb. 26, 2012 shooting death at the hands of white Hispanic George Zimmerman caused a national uproar. The “hoodie” sweatshirt that Trayvon, who would have been 19 on Feb. 5, was wearing when he was killed has became a lightning rod, as many have claimed that that particular piece of apparel has negative undertones and may have led Zimmerman, who beat second degree murder and manslaughter charges last year, to see Trayvon as a threat. Those on the other side counter that Trayvon was like far too many young black men – labeled armed and dangerous when more often than not neither is the case.
The march ended when the walkers made their way into the sanctuary to witness and take part in the service, which was organized by Emmanuel’s Youth Ministries.
The program featured song, dance and spoken word, with many of the performers using their art to make a statement about the injustice they feel Trayvon and many other young blacks are dealt. Brief sermons were delivered by Larry Brown, Michelle Butler, Chelsea Yarborough and Love’ Lemon, all of whom are current Wake Forest University School of Divinity students or candidates.
“What brings us here this afternoon is to commemorate the lives of those young minorities who lost their lives to injustice,” said Brown, who serves as a congregational intern at Emmanuel. “And not to just commemorate their lives but what brings us here is to reclaim our own so that America knows in our community there is much work to be done,”
Yarborough said the tragedy of the Martin case still hangs heavy, two years later.
“Sometimes in situations like the one we’re remembering today, it’s hard to see God,” said Yarborough, who serves as a ministerial intern at Cornerstone Missionary Baptist Church. “(It’s) a case that literally made and still makes some of us sick.”
Controversy still continues around Zimmerman. He has had numerous run-ins with the law since being released from jail after his acquittal. Before Sunday’s service, he had tentatively been scheduled to fight rapper DMX in what was being billed as a “celebrity” boxing match. Though that fight was called off earlier this week after the promoter claimed he and his family received death threats, a new promoter claimed this week to be scheduling a new non-celebrity match for Zimmerman, with profits going to the Trayvon Martin Foundation.
Butler said it was a disgrace to be in a society “where killing a young man with skittles and iced tea gets you on celebrity boxing matches.”
Brown agreed, as he also decried the match from the pulpit.
“Do you see that Zimmerman’s blood spilled in a celebrity boxing match will not quench the thirst for justice?” said Brown.
Lemon said there is injustice all around. She cited inadequate public schools, violence taking the lives of African Americans and the disproportionate number of black men in jails and prisons.
“Watching the news, I understand the many chains that still must be broken,” she said.
Emmanuel Pastor Dr. John Mendez delivered a sermon – “A Hoodie Without a Face” – shortly after Trayvon’s death. He hopes the church’s services will help people continue to remember who Trayvon Martin was.
“And by us commemorating his life we continue to put a face inside that hoodie,” he said. “He’s no longer invisible; he is no longer unknown, but he, in fact, has a real human face that’s made in the image and likeness of God.”
Performers included spoken word artists Damond Gaither and brothers Elijah Pone and Michael Hauser Jr., gospel rappers Mr. GP and E Jay Chandler, poet Wyenter Troy, singer Tamaya Arnette and Brian Cager, who recited Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream.” The Greater Cleveland Avenue Christian Church Step Team, the Emmanuel Youth Liturgical Dancers and Tots, the KB Mime Ministry and Testimony Mime Ministry’s William Furches also performed.