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With thousands expected to attend a related rally at Bayfront Park on Sunday, an array of Liberty City community members, diverse in age and ethnicity, gathered in a brightly painted room at the Belafonte Tacolcy Center on Friday to pray and come to terms with the controversial death of Trayvon Martin at the hands of George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer who was not officially arrested for the shooting.
A 17-year-old African American who attended Dr. Michael Krop Senior High School, Martin was visiting his father in Sanford, Fl., when Zimmerman shot him dead in an incident that has garnered international attention and outrage among those who see it as a case of deadly racial profiling. Zimmerman said he shot Martin in self-defense.
The Circle of Consciousness Event at the Belafonte Tacolcy Center, which was organized by the Miami Workers Center, started at 6 pm and was attended by roughly 30 people.
Vivian Tutt, a Liberty City Resident, said the Trayvon Martin incident was the impetus for the African American community to finish the work started by the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s.
“We need help — ever since Martin Luther King brought us out of the dark and into the light — we have settled,” Tutt said. “We were asleep and this has woken us up. I’m so sorry he [Martin] passed and he died the way he died, but this a wakeup call.”
The event opened with a heartfelt prayer lead by Miami Worker Center head organizer Hashim Benford. As an ice breaker, Benford asked the attendees to draw pictures to represent their emotions about Martin’s death. Audience members then shared their artwork in discussion groups.
Reactions were as diverse as the ethnicities that peppered the room. Many of those in attendance believed race had been a factor in the killing.
Fulaniyirax, a Liberty City resident, drew a picture of a triangle with a maze in it to describe how she felt about Martin’s killing.
“The maze symbolizes confusion [around race relations],” she said. “It is the state of where we are. We are victims of white supremacy and racism. We don’t have any solutions because we are all victims here.”
She added that Florida’s stand-your-ground law, which Sanford police gave as their reason for not arresting Zimmerman at the scene of the shooting, put African Americans and other people of color in danger. The Trayvon Martin killing was just a physical manifestation of the chaos surrounding race relations in this country, she said.
Lionel Lightbourne, a community outreach coordinator at the Belafonte Tacolcy Center, echoed Tutt’s belief that the killing of Trayvon Martin marked the start of a new Civil Rights Movement for a new generation.
“I can’t dwell on the past,” Lightbourne said. “I wasn’t part of Martin Luther King, Jr., but I do know [Trayvon Martin will affect] this generation.
“You can’t force change,” Lightbourne said. “You can only inspire it.”
The rally at Bayfront Park on Sunday is scheduled to start at 1 p.m. and expected to draw thousands of attendees, including the parents of Trayvon Martin, Rev. Jesse Jackson, singer Chaka Kahn, and U.S. Congresswoman Frederica Wilson, who organized the rally. For more details on the rally, visit Wilson’s official congressional website.