A Tribute to Trayvon

Happy 25th birthday, Trayvon.

I was a junior in high school eight years ago when I heard about Trayvon Martin’s death, and I learned he was a junior as well. He had just turned 17, and I would turn 17 in a few months.

I think about Trayvon often. I know there are plenty of Black people (and people of color broadly) who die at the hands of the police, an institution designed to control and patrol poor communities and communities of color, but Trayvon’s death was a special marker for me. How could someone my age be mistaken in such a way? It was new to me at the time, but not to most people of color.

Trayvon’s death was a pivotal moment for me. I didn’t quite understand the injustice against people of color (and never will completely), but I know a lot more now. I now know his death wasn’t an accident or something he did to perpetrate it; it was the result of an intentional system that has historically targeted Black and Brown people.

I think about this often –– Trayvon shouldn’t have had to die for me to begin some sort of social consciousness awakening. Black and brown people should not have to die for white people like me to wake up. What a privilege to be moved by death without largely being affected by its reality. It should *never* take death or injustice to help people in positions of power realize violence.

Yet, here we are, living in this system that sacrifices Black and Brown lives at the expense of “waking up” white people. Trayvon Martin’s birthday is a reminder to me of the love so many Black, Indigenous and people of color have birthed in the struggle against injustice when they shouldn't have to –– including the people in my life who have been marginalized by the dominance of whiteness, yet still reject it by existing as their full selves.

As Brittany Packnett Cunningham said (literally earlier today), “We save us. Don’t ask yourself if you would have been marching then. Show up and decide to do the work right now.” If I have learned these things at the expense of someone else’s life or livelihood, I better be doing the work to put life back into this world by resisting white supremacy.

Happy 25th birthday, Trayvon.