Thursday, August 8, 2013

At Trayvon Martin Rally, Santa Cruz NAACP asks Community to Speak Out Against Racism

On July 21, the Santa Cruz County Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) held a march and rally for Justice for Trayvon Martin and other citizens subjected to racial profiling, and Shoot First and Stand Your Ground laws.

Community members marched through downtown Santa Cruz and speakers were heard at the Louden Nelson Center, the Town Clock, and the Santa Cruz Court House. On Pacific Avenue, marchers sang "We Shall Not Be Moved," and later chanted, "Stop Racial Profiling." At the Town Clock, the group chanted "Justice for Trayvon," and circled up and held hands. 

Ariba Williams spoke outside of the Louden Nelson Center about raising her son in Santa Cruz, who was born the same year as Trayvon Martin. 

"I'm worried about him," she said. "Bringing him up and him being raised in Santa Cruz, sometimes I have to remind him when he goes outside, 'I need you to remember that you are a young black man, and sometimes people are afraid, and you need to act accordingly.'" 

Brenda Whitley, membership coordinator for the local NAACP, described how she feels less safe in Santa Cruz county after Martin's killing. 

"I am thinking ok, well, I might have a hoodie on, I might be walking in a neighborhood," she said. "I live in Aptos, these people may not know me, but that's my neighborhood, and if I have a hoodie on, they don't know if I am male or female, I might have some reaction." 

"I'm a little afraid if we had that stand your ground law here in Santa Cruz County that I might not still be here, because I have been known to step over some lines, you know in a positive way, but let them know that I am a human being: I'm here, yes I am, I'm black." 

Whitley said that by organizing the march for Justice for Trayvon Martin, the Santa Cruz NAACP is trying to be more visual and strong. Funding for the organization is based on local membership numbers, however, and she explained humorously to participants at the march, "that's why we have cardboard signs today folks, we need more members." 

"We're going old school," chapter president Deborah Hill-Alston said, echoing Whitley's sentiments about funding for supplies, adding, "but freedom should cost us nothing." 

Hill-Alston emphasized that it was crucial for community members to "stand up, speak up, and show up," at events like this. 

"Speak up when there is a need to speak up about any kind of racial discrimination or injustice," she said. 

"If you speak loud enough, they will hear us in Florida and they will change that and all of the other states that uphold that stand your ground." 

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