BY JAMES HARPER
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would have been 84 years old on Jan. 15 if he hadn’t been killed in Memphis, Tenn., at 6:01 p.m. on April 4, 1968, at age 39 by an assassin’s bullet.
Trayvon Martin would have turned 18 years old this coming Feb. 5 had he not been shot and killed Feb. 26, 2012 in Sanford at 7:17 p.m. while walking from a store to an apartment in a gated community.
How both deaths galvanized a nation was explored on Jan. 17 during a Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. banquet at the Hilton Resort and Spa in Daytona Beach.
Derrick Henry, Daytona’s first elected Black male mayor, welcomed Trayvon’s parents – Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton to the banquet and the city. Henry was sworn in last month as the city’s mayor.
“We cried with you, wept with you, stood with you when you demanded justice,” said Henry, who also acknowledged others in attendance, saying “Thank you for not allowing the dream (of King) to die.”
‘Working together for justice’
Attorney Benjamin Crump, who represents Trayvon’s parents, was the keynote speaker.
“(There are) far too many Black and brown (males) nobody seems to care about when they are taken away from this world. It’s about us working together for justice,” said Crump, who spoke before a crowd of about 300 people.
“In the end, we will not remember the works of our enemies but the silence of our friends,” Crump continued as he called on those in attendance to help him and Trayvon’s parents make a difference.
The day before the banquet, Crump was in Tallahassee with Trayvon’s parents to lend their support to a bill filed by legislators to repeal the “stand your ground law” that George Zimmerman, accused of killing Trayvon, initially tried to use in his defense.
Zimmerman has been charged with second-degree murder in the case and is pursuing a self-defense approach.
Crump said they support repealing of the law, starting over and fixing it so others cannot use it as a defense tool. Their goal is that what is happening to Trayvon’s parents – who are only seeking justice for their son – doesn’t happen to other parents.
“It’s going to be hard to get the bill repealed because of gun lobby. We are trying to build a coalition of parents. Until it comes to your doorsteps, you are looking at it (killing of your child) in the abstract,” said Crump.
March in Miami; vigil in New York
A peace march in remembrance of Trayvon is scheduled Feb. 9 in Miami near where his mother lives. Details are still being worked out. Trayvon would have been 18 on Feb. 5, 2013.
On Feb. 26, the anniversary of the day Trayvon was killed, Crump said he and Trayvon’s parents likely will be in New York City for what is being called the “Million Hoodie Candle Light Vigil.’’
Crump said they are calling for participants around the world at 7:17 p.m. on Feb. 26 to put on a hoodie and light a candle in memory of Trayvon to bring attention to a killing he says would not have happened had Zimmerman not been stalking Trayvon.
In his speech during the banquet, Crump recalled a telephone call he received from Trayvon’s father after he learned of his son’s death.
Crump said Martin, who had a hopeless tone in his voice and a sense of despair told him “they” killed his son. “People who are supposed to administer justice are looking the other way,” Crump recalled Martin saying to him.
“I remember telling Mr. Martin. We believe in the system. I said you don’t need me for this. I’m sure they are going to arrest someone,” Crump related, admitting he would later have to eat those words for it would take media attention and the marching of thousands for the wheels of justice to start turning.
“I was ashamed of our justice system,” Crump said, adding that’s why he decided to help the family even if it meant losing money and the possibility of nothing coming out of their actions.
“A year later you couldn’t have told me the Trayvon Martin phenomenon would happen,” Crump noted.
Crump said his clients, Tracy Martin and Sylvia Fulton, are emotionally and physically drained but he added they realized they have to “stand up for Trayvon, stand up for justice.”
“We’re watching to see if all men are created equal – if there is equal justice in America,” Crump concluded.
Trayvon scholarship presented
One of the highlights of the banquet was when Trayvon’s parents presented a $1,000 scholarship award named in their son’s honor to Sylvester Covington III, a senior at Atlantic High School in Port Orange who plans to attend the University of Central Florida in the fall. He wants to become a psychologist.
Fulton said to Covington as he received the award, “Keep your mind clear and keep your heart on God.”
Dr. L. Ronald Durham, pastor of Greater Friendship Missionary Baptist Church, and chairman of the MLK Celebration For Florida, Inc, which sponsored the event, also praised the other scholarship recipients.
They are Courtney Caldwell of Atlantic High, who plans to attend Florida A&M University; Tyesha Evins, Atlantic High, who is going to University of Florida; Michael Owen Murray, Spruce Creek High, who is attending Harvard University; and Brandyn Thompson, soon to be a graduate of Mainland High. She hopes to attend the University of Florida.
“Be reminded people in your city thought enough to give you a token of appreciation. We hope you study hard and don’t allow distractions get in way of you staying in your books,” Durham added.
‘Miles to go’
The Rev. John Long, also was one of the speakers and organizers of the banquet.
“Young Black males’ lives are undervalued. Death of the (Black) male is viewed as elimination of a problem,” he said at the banquet.
“We will not allow their memories to fade,” said Long in reference to Dr. King, Trayvon and other Black males whose deaths have garnered national attention. He included Emmett Till, Felipe Santos, Terrence Williams and Jordan Davis.
Volusia County Council’s newly elected Chairman Jason Davis said to the audience, “We still have many miles to go to accomplish the dream of Martin Luther King, Jr.
“His dream was for all – all Americans joining hands,” he told the predominantly Black audience. “It’s up to us to fulfill Dr. King’s dream,” Davis concluded.