On the one-year anniversary of the death of Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old from Sanford, Fla., USF students wearing hoodies gathered at Crescent Hill on Tuesday in memory of Martin and to speak out on issues of racial injustice.
We want to make sure that people do not forget, Kiayanna Sawyer, a junior majoring in womens studies and president of Triota and A.N.G.E.L.S., two of the student groups that organized the event, said. This is a boy who was killed, who was unarmed and his killer is still free.
Martin, a black teenager, was fatally shot last year by George Zimmerman, a then-28-year-old Hispanic American, while walking through a neighborhood in Sanford. The incident attracted national attention due to the circumstances surrounding Martins death.
Zimmerman reportedly called the police after noticing Martin displayed what Zimmerman said to be suspicious behavior. Though the dispatcher told Zimmerman following Martin was unnecessary, he continued to do so which led to a scuffle between the two and Zimmerman fatally shooting Martin.
Zimmerman claimed the shooting was an action conducted in self-defense, which sparked a national debate on Floridas Stand Your Ground laws.
But to some, such as Cornelius Williams, a junior majoring in mass communications, Trayvon Martin was not just a name from the news.
Williams shared his experiences growing up with Martin.
Williams said Martin was similar to all of the students in attendance he had hopes and aspirations and considered attending USF when he graduated high school after Williams told him about his experiences at the university.
I was telling him how great USF was, Williams said. I had just pledged into my fraternity and was telling him about my life on campus. He was really excited and was planning to visit USF during Spring Break, but Spring Break was a month after this happened.
Many of the speakers and guests such as Chyna Hill, a senior majoring in womens and genders studies, spoke on the issue of race, and how they believe
If (Martin) was a white kid, this case would have been resolved a long time ago, Hill said. (Zimmerman) should have been arrested immediately. It should not be a year later and everyone is still waiting on something to happen with this case.
LIFE Malcolm Turner, a community member who was invited by the organizations to speak, said that the event was important because the underlying issue of the case still exists and that African Americans are still not treated fairly.
An African is killed every hour in that fashion, Turner said. So it is important to continue to raise awareness of that type of behavior as often as we can, and not to let the Trayvon Martin case get swept under the rug and let Zimmerman get away with his actions with a slap on the wrist, because if we dont pay attention to it, that is exactly what will happen.
But Williams said he hopes some good can come from the case.
He said that Martins family and friends are glad that the incident garnered so much media attention in its aftermath. He said the response can help in similar situations and play a role in allowing justice to be done quicker and more efficiently.
We cant stop the shootings from happening, Williams said. But we can have a different judicial response afterwards. They should have taken a different approach, and hopefully they have learned from their mistakes.