Choose Community Over Chaos

There is a passage from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s last book, Where do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community?, that has been a source of solace and encouragement to me over the years. I return to that passage today now that the jury has found George Zimmerman not guilty in the death of Trayvon Martin.

In any social revolution there are times when the tailwinds of triumph and fulfillment favor us, and other times when strong headwinds of disappointment and setbacks beat against us relentlessly. We must not permit adverse winds to overwhelm us as we journey across life’s mighty Atlantic; we must be sustained by our engines of courage in spite of the winds. This refusal to be stopped, this “courage to be,” this determination to go on “in spite of” is the hallmark of any great movement.

Where do we go from here, chaos or community?

Whatever the jury’s decision, it could never have alleviated the pain we feel as a result of the senseless shooting and killing of Trayvon Martin, who had his whole life ahead of him. Whatever the jury’s verdict, it could never have brought this 17-year-old black boy back to life. His death is a national tragedy that we pray will never happen again.

It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that Trayvon’s death in part resulted from the thousands of negative stories and images circulated in our news, in our entertainment, and in our conversations every single day that criminalize young black men. It appears that George Zimmerman fell victim to these false stereotypes like so many others who fear our young men instead of seeing their promise and assets.

The deadly actions he took as a result of these misperceptions were sanctioned by unjust and discriminatory policies like Florida’s “stand your ground” law, which exists in some form in several other states, under which people allegedly fearing for their lives can use deadly force even when it is possible to retreat from a confrontation.

None of us can deny the pendulum of emotions that we are feeling today, but we would like to see our leaders, community members, and youth turn their energy towards positive action and advocacy as Dr. King suggests.

Together we can promote positive images of black men and boys. Together we can challenge and end discriminatory policies. Together we can fuel each other to be “engines of courage.” The Campaign for Black Male Achievement at the Open Society Foundations has never been more committed to supporting these efforts so that all Americans can feel safe walking down the street without the threat of violence.

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..another sad day in American history.

Prince, I agree with you that the evening of the Zimmerman day was yet another sad day in American history. So many of us were hoping against hope that the justice system would deliver a different decision but now in the midst of dispair, disappointment and outrage we must fight harder and smarter for justice, particularly for black men and boys who are criminalized and treated unfairly in the American justice system.

As a white American, my heart is broken that this family received no justice. They lost there child in a senseless death. And we are fighting to have guns carried openly. I hate to see another family lose a child. However, I promise if this was a white child the story would have ended differently. God help our country. And as worker that deals daily with people of color and wonder why I am faced with resentment and hostility. How naïve can I be.

Thanks for responding, Lana. Your perspective about how race played a role in the entire Trayvon tragedy is on point. Sadly, there is a harsh level "colorblindedness" and denial about this issue. Please continue to fight to make change and have your voice heard on this issue!

I'm so sorry that the justice system failed that family but as an African American, we too must step up to the plate in helping our young men. We need to be mentors. We need to hold them accountable about staying in school and not walking on the street with their pants falling down and wearing wife beaters. We must showcase on BET, students doing well in school and business instead of glorifying rappers and ball players.
We must get our young people more involved in civil right organizations, like it was in the 60's. Many of our young people have never heard of The National Urban League or the NAACP. Let's take this sad event and turn it into something positive.

Thanks for your inspired, focused response. I could not agree more. There is no cavalry coming to save the day in the black community. We are the iconic leaders that we have been waiting for! Efforts like www.bmecomunity.org, www.blackstarproject.org, www.lsibma.org, www.caresmentoring.org are just a slender slice of the leaders and organizations working in and with the African American community to respond to the challenges.

Together we can learn from the mistakes, miscommunication, misfortune of losing a young man who never had a chance to speak the truth. What happened that night? I so wish i could hear it from Trayvon.

Thanks for contributing your voice, Sharon. It is indeed upon us all to ensure that Trayvon did not die in vain.

As an Adjunct Professor of Criminal Justice in the Bronx, I often tell my students "An ounce of action weighs more than a ton of intentions." and while many of us are disappointed by the verdict, it should also be the fuel for our persistent efforts to engage ourselves in the decision making processes as it relates to Criminal Justice practices/policies in our country. We can do this by educating and encouraging more Men and Boys of color to increase participation in the political, educational and media related settings. The Campaign for Black Male Achievement is at the forefront of this cause to empower men and boys of color and we are grateful that your campaign continues to be a source of inspiration for all of us. "Together we can. Together we must. Together we will."

Thanks so much for sharing your voice, Sherman. We have much work in front of us!

I doubt that the most scrupulous search would find anyone who does not regret Mr Martin's death. The death of a 17-year-old young man with many achievements and much promise cannot fail to sadden even the most hard-hearted.

That said, I am deeply troubled that so many Americans evidently do not understand the American judicial system. I keep hearing that the justice system failed us, that justice was not done.

Let's look at what was at issue. Not Mr Martin's outstanding qualities, not even his most upsetting death. The issue was this: did the prosecution marshal evidence that persuaded the jury beyond a reasonable doubt that Mr Zimmerman did what the prosecution alleged.

The jury found that the prosecution failed to do that.
Hence the not guilty verdict.

That verdict does not mean that Mr Zimmerman may not have done something criminal. It means, quite simply, that the prosecution failed its obligation.

The system is what it is -- a verdict is based on evidence presented at trial -- and attorneys for the prosecution and for the defense know that. Would that more Americans did.

Peacefully, lawfully demonstrating to display one's disappointment and frustration at a duly rendered verdict is understandable, even appropriate. If we do not like the laws and the judicial system, we have the right, and if we feel they are egregiously wrong, we have the obligation to work to change them.

Thanks for sharing your voice, Vazir. While your assertion about the criminal justice system's due process is logical, when you look at the results of the system and the over incarceration of black men and more broadly people of color, it's easy to surmise that the system is flawed.

Only God has the answer. When we take God out of lives, school, Government and Churches, we are headed for destruction. We do not want to hear the truth but this the truth.

Amen!

I am responding to the e-mail on whether we will choose chaos or community. I spent 35 years teaching just south of Compton, CA. at Cal State Univ Dominguez Hills. I am presently working on revision of my teaching website to begin offering how I learned to teach and manage a community, where most others have failed.

My student of 30 some years ago is now Chair of the Criminal Justice Department at the Univ. of Wisconsin, Parkside. She'll be 60 this August and plans to spend her last years in Wisconsin helping me spread the knowledge we have gained together about making community work. I'm in my 70's.

We've both had careers. We have protected our work so that we can legitimately give it away, free, despite the univeristies' desire to charge and arm and a leg for it. Please don't let me die without giving this learning to any and all who will take it, and use it, in the name of Trayvon Martin and community.

Could we please connect somehow? jeannie

We have program for black, few lationo in NY for LGBT youth;please let me know if these materials would help us. We have 1600 homeless kids registered.
thank you.

Jeannie,

I want to do community work in Houston, TX. I am a teacher here and want to continue fighting injustice beyond this verdict. Could we connect?

This is a wake-up call to all black people everywhere that there is still a lot to do; in advocacy, in education of black young people everywhere, in social reoriention.
We were becoming relaxed and apathetic, perhaps due to some few "gains" in the form of some highly placed black people. The voices of reason and truth have been few and far apart.
As tragic and as painful as Travyon Martin's death is, we should not let it be in vain. We should honour him by waking up and taking all the needed steps to correct the misperceptions, injustice and inequalities of our world.
We all owe this to Travyon.

With great interest and advocacy condemn racial discrimination in the U.S. justice.If America claims to be from countries that maintain human rights. Why Mataml the end of racism in America.Venerates the same as in the world.And that those actions affect the reputation of America in the New World.

It's a tragedy Trayvon was the unfortunate consequence of something that should never had happened! However, Trayvon is dead and Zimmerman killed him. Putting aside all of the "BS," Zimmerman was tried and acquitted, by a jury. If anyone is looking for failure in the justice system, then look at the Prosecuting Attorney! The Prosecuting Attorney failed Trayvon, and his family; not the Judge or Jury.

If we don't change the way we think to make the world a better place, then we are doomed to repeat!

The case is tragic one that pushes anyone to conclude that the whole criminal justice system is simply preporterous and inconceivavle that accommodates laws like the Florida's "stand your ground".

I pray to the family of Trayvon Martin to have them strenght.
RIP Trayvon Martin.

Setting emotion aside there are two issues raised by the Trayvon Martin case. The first is racism and the second is gun control. It is impossible to legislate against racism which is a universal scourge.The way to fight it is by putting in place all the positive initiatives, as suggested above by the Frugal Exerciser. However, this tragic case once again highlights the urgency of putting in place effective gun control in the USA. Given the central place of the gun in the American sense of identity and the abject failure of countless administrations to deal with this issue, it is imperative that all 'right-minded' Americans make this a top priority for all legislators and politicians.

Those of us who believe in treating people according to the content of their character instead of the color of their skin (Dr Martin Luther King, Jr) have much to do, and I fervently believe that the earlier and more consistently we begin teaching and demonstrating that principle (nursery school or kindergarten), the sooner we will achieve greater mutual respect among people irrespective of their skin color.

Improve the education of the poor, increase their job prospects with at least a living wage, and treat them as full-fledged, responsible citizens -- these are essential to reducing the misuse of firearms.

As to the use of firearms, incidents of mass killings like those in Connecticut, Aurora, CO, and at Virginia Tech, are few and far between. There are more intra-racial killings than inter-racial killings. The typical weapons are pistols, not firearms with large magazines.

Background checks and gun registration that is not used to compile a more-or-less permanent record of those who own firearms is a partial solution and should be implemented nationwide.

As to European countries where ownership of firearms is strictly controlled, a review of the killings in Eastern Europe reveals that the number of killings with knives has grown sharply in recent years. May one conclude that when guns are not available, another weapon will be found?

Gun control as advocated by many is a palliative; it may relieve the symptoms but fails to treat the disease. As advocated by many it is a proposition the unintended consequences of which have yet to be addressed. I fear a federal gun-control law. The US Congress has an unparalleled record of passing legislation that in time proves more pernicious than the ill it was designed to cure.

Shawn Dove i love your positive spirit....rise above
what could hold away... kindness and compassion....keep
always your head high and fight for peace and justice
but above all by peacefull intelligence...not war....
because war is what leads to chaos build solidarity
communities with a new constructive spirit and
reach for a new conscience of justice for all peaceffully
not a submissive peace like Gandi....but one that
has a vision for a better world for all backed by expert
scientific intelligence and
knowledge of how to build independant sustainable communities....and keep your head high because you are right and i encourage you to continue in your
positive spirit.

Its a terrible piece of event coming at a moment when the world was almost thinking it had arrived in promised land, with respect to racial harmony, a time when apartheid in South Africa and Colonization in the rest of Africa is almost decaying, a time when America and Europe are beginning to embrace races and especially black, that were deemed inferior. It is a set back, a lie that should be trampled.

I think all of us need to consider what are we doing personally to create safe, affirming, BETTER communities. Start with the neighborhood you live in and then go beyond that to neighborhoods that are challenged. Not to sound too 'corny,' but I think we have to do as Michael Jackson said in his song--"I'm starting with the man (woman) in the mirror. I'm asking him/her to change his/her ways. No message could have been any clearer, if you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and make that CHANGE."

My heart reaches out to the family of the young man. Being a mother myself, I feel so bad about this whole situation. I don't live in the US, but surely, this is supposed to be the "promised' land to rights and justice? . May justice prevail.

Jesus, thank you for sending the miracle of love to every citizen in the universe.

Our eyes deceive us. Choose love only, and then sooner or later you will see only what is true. Consequently, you'll find joy from sunrise to sunset without having to do anything in particular.

Forgive everyone for everything right now. No exceptions! Hold nothing from the past in your mind. Let it all go! It's not real!

Nothing or no one can harm us. Don't waste any more time thinking that you can be hurt in anyway by anyone. It is simply not true. You are invincible and quite loved by Father. REMEMBER THAT, I don't care what the circumstance seems to be.

Love every millimeter of yourself, which is the only gateway to love another. Any other form of love absent love of Self is artificial. (I’m not there, either, but I have no other goal in life.)

Starte Christ
Montgomery Village MD

My heart goes out to the parents of Trayvon, This whole case was just a horrible tragedy for both sides.What I am truly ashamed is our representatives, the main stream media and even the president's General Attorney calling for more charges and fueling the race card. I'm tired of people trying to make Americans out to be racist. There will always be ignorance in America. Whether it's White on Black, Black on White, Irish/Protestant, India North/South, the list goes on...but why they keep insisting that white people are the culprit is beyond me.

We can start by stopping the rhetoric now. You aren't going to stop ignorance.

American tragedy revisited. There should have been a grand jury investigation - and indictment. F.Lee Bailey's Sam Shepherd case comes to mind. (pre-trial publicity pro and con). President Obama's asserting himself in the case is similar of Richard Nixon's Mai Lai Kelly utterances. The optimal goal should now be to deter any future loss of life (like Travon Martin's) by a neighborhood sentry . Arm them with iphones/cameras to document any and all suspicious persons - in uniform with ID badges. Make sure their take is legally acceptable in any court of law. In America- there are citizen's arrest(s)- but Zimmermann did not use it. If one lives in high crime area (breaking/entering i.e.)- use cameras -home alarms. Alarm companies call police in such cases. Profiling 'black men' in cases of B & E is not true either- there are more cases stemming from the other dna samples. There was a time also in Florida- when rental cars from Miami airport were ambushed- for robberies/even killings. (not one African-American). Rush to a court rendering a verdict instead of usual grand jury indictment was evident in this case. Once the balance of scales is shifted for fabricated shortcuts/tailored witness testimonies (illiteracy)/change of prosecutor's charges (murder- manslaughter) a jury must acquit. A true American justice system tragedy -avoidable at that.

A tradegy and a travesty. Tradegy for humanity and America. The loss of a young man standing his ground to another defending misconceived notions. A tarvesty of justice and the enforcement of just-us. The right claims Zimmerman is "not white; therfore; not racism", yet I'm sure the family has been passing for white for generations. They adopted the majority's values, views, and prejudices. And that is where white America finds itself reinforcing those same values, views and prejudices only to prepetuate racism in its collective action or inaction.

I am an African-Cuban and what I see is that the American people are giving us another class of civil rights and justice.

Shawn, in this sad and thought-provoking moment I feel compelled to say how much I admire and support Open Society's call for constructive, future-oriented and meaningful consideration, dialogue and action. In moments of anger, pain and frustration guidance such as yours is more important than ever. So thank you. My heart goes out to Trayvon's family and all those who continue to campaign for justice, equality, human rights and an open society.

There are people with cruel hearts and I really don't know what to do about them. We have been trying now for at least a few decades, and in some places even longer, to soften the hearts of the haters. We need to keep trying, but that work is long and slow. On another front, a cognitive failure persists regarding assessing risk of criminal behavior. Even some people who do not want to be racist assess the risk of criminality of young black men completely incorrectly. I actually think a presidential fireside chat outlining the facts about the criminality of young black men and undocumented immigrants would do a lot to bring to public attention how many commonly held attitudes accepted as correct are completely false. I am stunned at how baseless and irrational are many people's views regarding young black men and undocumented immigrants.

What type our life leding this durty society

I wanted to extend a thought of comfort to the family of Trayvon martin. A truly sad day for America n tha black nation in the entire world. Most of us want to do something drastic, we feel tired of sitting back when our people are devalued, disrespected and treated like third class citizens. But we have decided to sit back and unite, to learn to respect and love ourselves. We have slowly learned not many love us or value us, so now we turn to ourselves in totality. Salute to all black starts out there. Gotta keep shinnin' despite this dark cloud hovering over us.

Rest In Power Trayvon

I'm white - shocked and in despair over Trayvon's murder and the acquittal of G.Z. To me, this is just another form of lynching, and want to do my part to end this cycle of violence against young black men and other people of color in the U.S. I have two ideas: First, the Open Society established by George Soros may be able to offer financial and organizational support to (black) community initiatives that seek to challenge the (in)justice system and change ignorant public opinions. Roma in Eastern Europe, who are subjected to similar prejudice, discrimination, and hate crimes endured by black people in the U.S., have used OS support to initiate a media campaign to change anti-Roma prejudice in Romania - Check out their video campaign - maybe this approach could be used in the mass media to alter public prejudice. Another idea is for Jeannie, who mentioned that she wants to provide a forum for educating the community about how to work together for change. There are many free educational websites now (MOOCs) on the Internet that can spread your ideas worldwide very quickly. Coursera is one model for this type of community/public education, and I don't think it has to be offered by a university. If necessary, perhaps your previous university would be willing to sponsor such a course on-line. At any rate, these classes routinely attract 16,000 people at a time, so this might be an ideal way to educate us all about how to combat racism in the U.S. (as well as worldwide). I know there's a digital divide in our country, but this might be one way to give many people a chance to learn to fight back against these kind of hate crimes. One other idea might be to ask The Southern Poverty Law Center to reopen the case or seek other redress for Travon and his family. I hope this grave tragedy and travesty of justice can lead to a lasting change in the U.S. and to an end to the prejudice that resulted in the loss of Trayvon's precious life.

let's intensify the efforts to recognise humanity in each other. Whoever it is that condones racial profiling should understand they need ''trayvons'' in their lives and vice versa. Besides are rights not suppose to be indivisible, interrelated and enforced in good fate and equality.

peace

I resonate with your feelings and thoughts and like to join in the action.
I am in India where similar discrimination based on caste, class and gender abound. As a global community we should build solidarity to voice our opposition to such injustice wherever in the world it occurs to bring reform in the politics and achieve social justice. The communication through the internet makes this eminently possible.
In solidarity,
Prakash

I agree that we can and should change the public image of our sons. That task has to include our sons changing their self image, which is fueled by the Eldership Guidance they receive. At the same time, sincere benefactors need to recognize that some of the Elders providing the guidance may not be "perfect". Some of the Elders will have gained their wisdom through life's experiences, good and bad. And some did not go to college and some didn't finish high school. But either way, benefactors need to be open to supporting new approaches to Saving Our Sons as opposed to the "professional grant-writers". Saving Our Sons requires more vested love and proper grammar/language. Our Yo' Little Brother Initiative is just such a project.

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