The majority of us know the story: On the night of February 26th, 2012, in Sanford, Florida, George Zimmerman was keeping watch around the gated community Martin lived in. Zimmerman watched as Martin, returning from the convenience store, walked to Twin Lakes Housing Community. At 7:09 PM, Zimmerman called the Sanford non-emergency number, reporting a suspicious person. In the call, he described Martin as “just walking around looking about” and “this guy looks like he is up to no good or he is on drugs or something.” Two minutes into the call, he reports that Martin begins running, so he starts to follow him. When the dispatcher asks if Zimmerman is following him, he responds “yeah,” to which the dispatcher tells him “we don’t need you to do that.” After Zimmerman ends the call at 7:15, a violent encounter takes place, ending when Zimmerman shoots Martin 70 yards from the townhouse where Martin was staying.
Five years from that fateful moment, the moment in which Trayvon Martin was murdered for wearing a hoodie, would change the world as we know it. His death was a significant spark for a still-relevant social justice movement: Black Lives Matter.
When Zimmerman was acquitted, many people quickly connected Martin’s murder to that of Emmett Till, who’d been lynched for “flirting with a white woman.” Activists over the nation recounted the pain of Emmett Till’s mother, Mamie Till, to compare it to Sybrina Fulton: both of their sons became catalysts in the ongoing battle for social justice.
The killing of Michael Brown and the Ferguson Uprising are often credited as “official” causes for the Black Lives Matter Movement, but Martin’s murder and Zimmerman’s freedom inspired new groups of people to commit to addressing racial injustice, and across social media, people posted pictures of themselves wearing hoodies in honor of him. Much like what we’ve seen in the past, and still today, marches and protests were held in cities across the country, demanding murder charges against Zimmerman.
In the Summer of 2013, Patrisse Cullors, Alicia Garza, and Opal Tometi created #BlackLivesMatter as call to action, the foundation for a movement responding to anti-black racism. Instead of viewing Martin’s murder as something simply out of the ordinary, they brought attention to the disturbing pattern of police officers killing black people. The hashtag #1Every28 was born, highlighting a study done by the Malcolm C Grassroots Movement that showed one person approximately every 28 hours was killed by police or security officers in 2012.
And by 2014, the Ferguson Uprising shot the movement forward even farther, frustrations with anti-black racism and police brutality reaching full pitch. Yet, police brutality still continues, and many people, mostly white, started their own hashtags such as #AllLivesMatter, throwing social media into conflict. Good points were brought up: yes, all lives matter, but the lives we should be focusing on right now are those marginalized, demonized, and oppressed, as they need the support more than ever.
Trayvon Martin’s death, still remembered today, impacted the world far more than we realize it, educating us on the harsh reality of how black people are treated. We must continue to avenge his legacy, spread the true story of what happened the night of February 26th, 2012, and support those who need it.