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Remembering Trayvon Martin: Activism and Racial Justice in our Digital Age

Remembering Trayvon Martin: Activism and Racial Justice in our Digital Age

A number of protests and rallies took place in Oakland, Los Angeles, New York and other cities in response to the sentencing of George Zimmerman. The verdict was announced on July 13th and social networks such as twitter, facebook, and tumblr broke the news as the verdict was shared and reshared virally. 

There has been much outrage in response to the verdict because of the details surrounding the murder.  Trayvon Martin was unarmed and profiled then shot by Zimmerman who was working as a volunteer for the Sanford, Florida neighborhood watch in 2012.   Martin was only 17 and shot by an older adult man as Zimmerman was 28 at the time.  Martin was a young Black high school student while Zimmerman was a mixed race Latino American. The case prompts several issues such as racial profiling, gun control, and untimely deaths.  

Moreover, larger questions around racial politics includes if the racial background of both Zimmerman and Martin had been reversed, would Martin still be living? Would public opinion differ on who is guilty? Would the verdict have been ruled differently? 

Martin's case is important because it speaks to the increasing number of young black men murdered by enforcers of law.  We can remember the murder of Oscar Grant at the Oakland BART station in 2009.  His shooter, BART officer Johannes Mehserle was aquitted.  Mehserle was also white and much of the response to the verdict speaks to the number of incidents in which legal accountability has not occured for bodies of color.  We can also remember the 1982 case of Vincent Chin in which a Chinese American man was brutally murdered and his murderers both white men were given a lenient sentencing, no jail time,  three years probation, fined $3,000 and ordered to pay $780 in court costs. 

You can learn more about the Oscar Grant case here and about Vincent Chin here

In particular, the murder of Martin speaks to the increasing number of young Black men and men of color dying at the hands of "enforcers" and when taken to court, murders have been labeled as "self-defense" and given lenient sentences. 

You can read more about the Martin case herehere, and here

There is much politically about the case that speaks to the need for racial and class analysis.

Additionally, there is much politically about the utilization of digital media and social networks that speak to a need for analysis and utilization of technology.

Both Oscar Grant's death (camera phones recordered the murder) and the Trayvon Martin's death (utilization of social media for organizing) demonstrate shifts in activism in our digital age .  

After the verdict was announced, activists in the Bay Area quickly organized two rallies in Oakland.  I was on facebook when invited to both rallies by the organizers who created a facebook events page to spread the news. 


People began posting photographs of the rallies. 

We live in an age of memes.

How has activism shifted? 

Racial justice via 

Reconsidering Activism: Digital Strategies and Tactics  

One photo in particular seemed to grab the attention of social network users. 

I reposted the photograph, a beautiful visual image of San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge filled with people protesting for Martin.  

Although this image does not include it, the images I received had a caption which signaled it was from a rally for Martin. 

Upon posting it, I learned from facebook friends who quickly informed me, (they were also activists) that the image was from an old anniversary gathering of the Golden Gate Bridge. 

I was amazed the beautiful photo of the golden gate bridge filled with people was not from protests for Martin, but from the anniversary of the Golden Gate bridge.

What I realized was how much activism has shifted and changed because of memes, the social network, the net, netizens, techne. 

We need to recognize that rallies are not riots, it is movement building.  It is not partisan, it's justice and democratic.  

What struck me about the image was how the line between the real and the fake blurred because of the photo's boundaries.  

Yet, I found what may be seemingly faux pas on part of the poster or re-poster may be tactical. 

The "false" image helps us recognize what may be possible, what should be reality, what we must demand. 

It is through the "fake" that activists can begin to reimagine possibilities for peaceful organizing.  

I dream of a day where the bridge is filled with people for racial justice, against classism, neighborhood watches that surveil black male bodies, against courtrooms that devalue bodies of color.

I dream of a net utilized by those who strive for equality, strive for less suffering, less untimely deaths in our world. 

I look back on my wall and see the image is now gone.

I did not delete it.

Was the post rendered insignificant to facebook's algorithmns or detelted by its creator? 

It was a false photograph, but hope is never false. 

Everything on social networks seems so ephermeral.

Yet, we must demand our lives are not. 

Someone passed away at the hands of another.  His name was Travyon Martin.  He was 17 years old. He was unarmed. He went to the convenience store to buy a bag of skittles and ice tea.  He was wearing a hoodie. 


For you, "real" images of rallies across the country here



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