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NBLSA: One Year after Trayvon Martin Shooting

February 26, 2013

WASHINGTON, D.C. - A year after the shooting and killing of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin, the members of the National Black Law Students Association look back on a year that thrust racism and the shortfalls of the criminal justice system back into the spotlight and asks: what have we learned?

We learned about corporate-sponsored lobbyists who push behind closed doors for "stand your ground" laws, suppressive voter legislation, and the gradual rollback of many of the most important civil rights gains of the past half-century. We also learned the power of the people's voice. Grassroots protests in the wake of Trayvon's death spurred the American Legislative Exchange Council - the group behind Florida's controversial law - to exit the social policy field. Corporations associated with ALEC were met with a barrage of negative feedback from public interest and civil rights groups like NBLSA - and it worked.

We have learned that America's problems with guns remain deeply rooted. Less than five months after Trayvon's death, a man walked into a Colorado theater during a midnight movie and opened fire, killing 12 people and injuring 58. Just two weeks before Christmas, another mass shooting: this time in Newtown, Connecticut. Twenty children died - all of them much younger than Trayvon. In the wake of the Newtown shooting, calls rang out for tougher security at schools and tightened background checks on gun purchasers. But to the mourning parents of Sandy Hook Elementary School, these calls came too late. They asked the same question as Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin: if America can't protect our children, then how can we remain the greatest nation on Earth?

We learned that, if the hallways of America's schools are not safe for children of all races, then the streets of America's neighborhoods are certainly not safe for the nation's Black children. There was Jordan Davis, the 17-year-old Black boy fatally shot at a gas station by a man angry that Jordan and his friends were listening to loud music. There was Hadiya Pendleton, shot in the back while taking shelter from the rain under a canopy of trees in a park, the 42nd person to be killed in Chicago in the deadliest January in that city in more than a decade. Days after marching in President Obama's second inaugural parade, Peterson died on the streets not far from the President's Chicago home. There were countless others in the streets of every major American city. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, large metropolitan areas account for more than two-thirds of deaths by gun violence each year, with inner cities most affected. The majority of the victims are young, ranging in age from their early teens to mid-20s, and Black.

As the nation reflects on the one year anniversary of the death of Martin, a call to action still resounds: we must value every human life with particular mindfulness to the incredible tide of murders that have taken the lives of too many of Black youth.
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