Archive for Trayvon Martin

Trayvon, Tragedy and Travesty

Posted in The Travon Martin Trial with tags , , on July 19, 2013 by playthell


Treyvon with his loving Dad
 Like many Americans my sleep was troubled last night, troubled by the ghosts of past injustices, a feeling given fresh currency by a late-hour not guilty verdict from Sanford, Florida that freed George Zimmerman in the shooting death of unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin.

Equally aroused, unfortunately, was the 800-pound gorilla called race and many of us were hoping and praying that justice would enter the hearts of the six women jurors, none of them African American like the slain Martin.  One of the defense attorneys for Zimmerman said he was glad the outcome did not turn a “tragedy into travesty,” and like much of his cross-examination he was wrong again.

No, Virginia, there is no Santa Claus, nor is there justice in American courts—Supreme or otherwise—particularly when it comes to Black Americans.  Yes, my sleep was troubled and there came the jangling discords of all the cases of police brutality—and these were not “wanna be cops”—that I’ve covered in my years as a journalist.

I was barely in New York City to live for the third time when I was dispatched to cover the Howard Beach incident; then there was the outrage Tawana Brawley inspired; and the wanton shooting of several teenagers by Bernard Goetz in 1984, who claimed he was being robbed.  His later acquittal was my re-introduction to jury nullification, which I will discuss further in a moment.

Bernard Goetz: Killer Wimp! 

Bernie Goetz

The Subway Shootist

Even before scurrying to rallies and marches, and sitting hour after hour in the city’s courtrooms, the back stories of recent injustices, mainly by the NYPD, shaped my outlook, especially what I had heard of Eleanor Bumpurs, Michael Stewart, Clifford Glover and Randy Evans, all of them victims of overzealous police officers.

But last night’s visitations were more immediate and once again I saw families in tears after the acquittal of cops who killed Amadou Diallo, Anthony Baez, Sean Bell, Ramarley Graham and savagely sodomized Abner Louima.  They tugged at my memory, most of them cases I had covered that often left me feeling like Digger O’Dell, fighting each time to ward off that scab of callousness that inures one’s sensitivity.

Beyond the precincts and journalism that have informed so much of my thinking about race and society, are the lessons I’ve gathered from history.  One would have to turn a blind eye to history to think that five white women and another of mixed-race would convict a white man of killing a Black boy.  Pages of American history weighed on my sleep last night and I thought of chapters of atrocities about the lynching of Black men in America, the senseless mayhem that has made living in this country a daily challenge for Black Americans.

A Southern Tradition
Crucifying African Americans for Sport

To date, there has been much talk about the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, the assassination of Medgar Evers and the insidious slaughter of four little girls in Birmingham, and even as far back as 150 years ago with the commemoration of President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.  And to recall a moment in our nation’s history 150 years ago brings to mind the Draft Riots in New York City in the midst of the Civil War.

On July 13, 1863, the same day of Zimmerman’s emancipation, African Americans were set upon by whites in the city who were angry that they were being conscripted to fight in a war over slavery only to watch Blacks take their jobs once they were sent off to battle.  Without going into great detail, suffice it to say that 100 to a 1,000 people perished during the four days of rioting, most of them African Americans some of them strung up on lampposts or dragged through the city by white hooligans.  So vicious was the turmoil that some rioters were so full of hatred that they set fire to the Colored Orphan Asylum, but luckily none of the children there were killed.

The New York Draft Riots of 1863
 The Authentic History Center
An Artist Rendition of the Carnage
 Thinking about Trayvon, I recalled the words of President Obama—who stands as the poster boy for those who believe we now live in a post-racial society—when he said that if he had a son, he would look just like Trayvon.   I have a son who is an older version of Trayvon and is no less safe in a country where in an instance an innocent Black life can be snuffed out.

The miscarriage of justice—no, the abortion of justice, as one reverend might call it—was reminiscent of what happened to Emmett Till, another young teenager who ventured to the South and felt the full wrath of Mississippi menace and mendacity. Several years ago I had the opportunity to work on a book with Simeon Wright, Till’s first cousin who slept next to him that fateful morning when two white men snatched him from slumber, spirited him away, and later beat him mercilessly, so much so that his face was disfigured; there was a bullet hole through his head.   An all-white jury acquitted the two white men and nothing was done to them years later after they confessed to the murder.

    Emmitt Till


 Fourteen Year old Emmett Till Before and after he was lynched

 Earlier, I had mentioned jury nullification and the Till case is a good example of this in which jurors, having considered evidence that pointed overwhelmingly to the guilt of the accused, is circumvented.   A cursory glance back on American history and the instances of such practice are replete.  Take for example the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, when juries refused to convict slave owners and bounty hunters who had violated the law.  And the case of James Hickok in 1865 bears some similarity to what occurred in the Zimmerman/Trayvon case.

Hickok was on trial for manslaughter, and the judge gave the jury two instructions. He instructed them that a conviction was its only recourse under the law; he then told them they could apply the unwritten law of the “fair fight” and acquit.  Hickok was acquitted and it caused a public outcry of injustice.  Fair fight can be compared here with Zimmerman’s so-called self-defense or the nefarious “Stand Your Ground” law.

Of course, when jury nullification was bandied about sometimes before and certainly following the O.J. Simpson trial, the shoe was on the other foot, so to speak, when Simpson was acquitted in 1995.   For many Black Americans this verdict was a form of payback and vindication in a racist criminal justice system that always rendered Black Americans as the victims.

Jury nullification may not get much attention after this case and it may go as unspoken as racial profiling, which the judge refused to allow in the courtroom.  Even so, race continues to plague our society, continues to be the 800-pound gorilla in practically every endeavor of social relations.

The recent monumental decisions by the Supreme Court on the Voting Rights Act and affirmative action signals loudly the presence of race and the inability of some of our justices to speak its name.  Race is something that resonates in the highest realms of our government and in the lowest quarters of our cities, and certainly in the deepest sinews of citizens who swear they haven’t a racist bone in their body.

Yes, Virginia, racism is alive and well in America, and those who for a minute thought it was on life support only have to open their eyes and read tomorrow’s headlines and see again Trayvon’s tragedy and travesty that troubled my sleep—and yours should have been troubled too.

           Trayvon Martin


Murdered for being black and male in America!!!


By: Herb Boyd

Harlem, New York

July 18, 2013

The More Things Change…The More they Stay the Same!

Posted in Playthell on politics with tags , , , on March 30, 2012 by playthell
 The outraged family and friends of Trayvon

Reflections on the Trayvon Martin Murder

Listening to the conversation that has followed in the wake of revelations about the murder of Trayvon Martin – an unarmed 17 year old Afro-American boy going happily about his business who was stalked by a racist white Latino bully named George Zimmerman, who shot him down like a wild beast then claimed self-defense and white male State Attorney let this killer walk – I am reminded of a day during the summer of 1960, when I had a serious talk with my Granddad that caused me to leave Florida for good.

I had just completed my freshman year at Florida A&M University where I had participated in the student sit-ins that began that spring.   Once I became active I could no longer accept the status quo again, because I could see that collective struggle was the way to freedom.  But, like most people I knew in the ancient city of St. Augustine, I was not a saint like Dr. Martin Luther King.

Hence back then, as now, my inclination was to put a cracker in the cemetery if they put their hands on me.  You could say I had a homicidal disposition and a grave yard mind…I was on a freedom high and ready to die!  As small town southerners we belonged to a hunting culture; everybody was armed, and guns were readily available.

My grandfather George Benjamin was a pious church deacon, yet he kept a 20 gage shotgun loaded with 00 buckshot mounted on the wall just above a sign professing his faith in Jesus Christ!  Grandpapa didn’t take no mess!  Like his friends, he was an Old Testament Christian who believed in an eye for an eye!

We lived in a state of constant tension with the white community.  They were in charge as a community, but individual whites understood that there were lines they were not to cross, and they did so at their peril on this hot August day, Grand Dad stepped to me and said: “Boy I think it’s time for you to go on up north.  Cause if you stay around this town either you gonna kill one of these peckerwood crackers or one of them is gonna kill you.  Either way it goes down you bout to git this whole family in a war with these rednecks….cause whatever they do to you they do to all of us!”

It was good advice, because relations between the races were very tense…just like now.  My generation had reached a consensus that we would not submit to the white supremacist racial caste system any longer, although the system of separate and unequal treatment for Afro-Americans had the force of law.  I heeded grand-dad’s advice and soon left town and joined the Airforce.  This was three years before Dr. King came to town and lead some of the most dangerous demonstrations of his career.

The local crackers, led by local Redneck terrorist “Hoss” Manucy, were mean and prone to violence; and Dr. King told Jet Magazine he had never seen so many Negroes with guns!  It was a hard sell to convince them to put down their guns and follow him in a passive resistance campaign.  He never convinced me!

He didn’t convince my neighbor Reverend Goldy Eubanks either. A truly righteous and fearless fundamentalist preacher, Goldy and his sons shot it out with the Klan and offed a couple of them.  They were tried for murder by the state of Florida, and only the lawyerly brilliance of William S. Kunstler, who swooped down from New York to defend them,  had saved their lives!

While I now concede that Dr. King’s non-violent campaigns was the right strategy to change government policy, and the Maoist strategy of armed revolution we advocated in the Revolutionary Action Movement and the Black Panther Party of Oakland, was wrong; a half century later I still believe that anybody who steps to me with violent intentions is tired of living and I’m going to try my best to take them out of their misery!

Witnessing the way the state of Florida allowed Piggy Zimmerman to walk after murdering a black child in cold blood then covering it up, and the mounting attempt to even justify Zimmerman’s homicidal attack by painting Trayvon as the aggressor, if I were living in Florida today I would be strapped and practicing my fast draw in the mirror!

The New Black Militia is armed and actively searching for Zimmerman and his picture is all over the internet.   Since the depraved child killer is in hiding like the punkass  low down dirty rat that he is, the militia men intend to conduct a search, ferret him out, and make a citizen’s arrest since the police won’t do it.  They consider him armed and dangerous…as all black folks should, and they intend to act accordingly.

The militia men have declared their intention to bring Zimmerman in dead or alive!   Although a chorus of voices is denouncing their decision: I wish them well.  White policemen have been getting away with murdering unarmed black men all over this nation….including here in New York City repeatedly.  Now we are to stand by while private white citizens are getting away with murdering our children?  Those who think this are flirting with disaster!

My black friends in Florida are armed to the teeth….one classmate told me he won’t go to the bathroom without his Glock!  They intend to stand their ground, and there is no Martin Luther King around to cool them down…a white racist shot him years ago.  So it’s on: Anything can happen!  If you are planning to vacation in Florida don’t do it….unless you are some sort of freak who gets off hanging out in free fire zones.

Black Militia Men on Zimmerman’s Case  


They want Piggy Zimmerman ”Dead or alive!!


Playthell G. Benjamin

Harlem, New York

March 30 2012