TAMPA, Fla. — The death of Trayvon Martin is widely considered to be the beginning of the hashtag “Black Lives Matter” that would eventually turn into a movement. It was formed in response to the acquittal of George Zimmerman, the man who killed Trayvon Martin 10 years ago.
“Most Black people know what it’s like to be harassed, to be followed, to be harmed by ill-intending people,” said Donna Davis, co-founder of Black Lives Matter Tampa.
With the 10-year remembrance of the death of Trayvon Martin, she reflects on how she felt when she found out an unarmed, Black teenager was shot and killed.
“It was very hurtful to know that someone insinuated themselves into the perfectly legal activities of a young, Black man going about his business which resulted in his death,” said Davis.
On February 26, 2012, there was a conflict between Trayvon Martin, who was walking back home after getting snacks for himself and his younger brother, and George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer.
The conflict ended in Martin being shot and killed by Zimmerman. Zimmerman said he was defending himself, while others questioned why he was following Martin in the first place. Zimmerman was acquitted based on Florida’s 2005 “Stand Your Ground” law.
Melina Abdullah is the director of Black Lives Matter Grassroots, and she said what happened to Martin has happened to other Black children.
“We can think about people like Emmet Till. We can think about 13-year-old Devin Brown, who was killed in Los Angeles a few years before Trayvon,” said Abdullah.
Black Lives Matter has been mobilizing and protesting for the better part of a decade.
“I think the part that people miss about when they’re analyzing racism and how far we have to go is where we came from and why. We have to know how we got here in order to know how we’re going to get out of it,” said Davis.
“I think there’s tangible wins like, we just witnessed convictions which we’ve never seen before,” said Abdullah.
She referred to the three men convicted of killing Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia and the police officer who shot and killed Duante Wright in Minnesota.
“There are some tangible things that we intend to win,” said Abdullah.
She said they plan on fighting to end the following:
- Qualified immunity, which is the controversial legal doctrine that protects police officers accused of misconduct
- No-knock warrants, which allows law enforcement to storm someone’s home without warning
They also plan to re-imagine public safety by investing more into mental health resources, education and improving the quality of life of Black people.
“So, that’s where we’re moving as Black Lives Matter,” said Abdullah.
Davis said she is optimistic about where society is headed.
“I think the discourse that’s been opened up, the awareness that people have has set the stage for a generation,” said Davis.