Last Friday I was proud to speak at events at the University of London Union (ULU) and a vigil at Downing Street which showed support for the family of Trayvon Martin, a 17-year old African American man who was shockingly shot dead by an armed neighbourhood watch patroller George Zimmerman in February in Sanford, Florida. Despite an immediate outcry, Zimmerman was protected by the ‘stand your ground’ law, and was only arrested after a 2 million strong petition, and rallies of thousands of people in the US.
Doreen Lawrence joined the families for a press conference at ULU, at which she explained how hard it had been to campaign for justice for Stephen, and therefore how important it was to have support for Trayvon’s family. Trayvon’s parents, Sybrina Fulton and Tracey Martin, highlighted the the issue of racial profiling by the police and wider society. They also thanked the people of London for giving international support. (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/trayvon-martins-parents-call-for-an-end-to-racial-profiling-in-britain-7737747.html) Trayvon’s brother Jahvaris Martin was also in London; now a university student, his presence was a tragic reminder of the potential that has been cut short by Trayvon’s death.
I spoke alongside representatives of BARAC, One Society Many Cultures and Unite Against Fascism, bringing the solidarity of the 7 million-strong National Union of Students, and highlighting the general stereotypes that exist around Black students which are being challenged by campaigns like the NUS Black Students Campaign where we are making a huge difference on campus and in society, debunking the myth that the Black communities, and young Black people in particular, are a problem or a drain on society. Such racist stereotypes must be challenged as they contribute to climate of hostility which has violent consequences for our communities. That is why I welcome the ‘hoodies and hijabs’ alliance that has come together to highlight the impact of the deaths of Trayvon Martin and Shaima Alawadi, a Muslim woman who was murdered in her home, with a racist note left beside her body.
We must continue to campaign for justice for the many families like Trayvon Martin and Stephen Lawrence who are tirelessly seeking justice.