A week or so ago, my best friend, Kat, sent me a FB invite to the Minneapolis Trayvon Martin rally, and I immediately accepted – though it meant missing my tai chi class. I really didn’t know what to expect as I haven’t been to a protest in a long time – and we Minnesotans are all decorous and shit. I highly doubted things would get out of hand, but who knows when tensions are running as high as they are over the Trayvon Martin injustice?
Last night, I put on my hoodie and took pics of me looking suspicious in preparation for the rally. I headed for my best friend’s house to hitch a ride with her and her daughter, Kitten, who was attending her first rally/protest. Kitten’s eight, and I was worried about how the rally would be for her, but I think it’s important to get kids involved in social justice issues at a young age.
The three of us took off, all of us in our hoodies. As I said, I didn’t know what to expect as the rally had been started by a U of M student who, Kat told me, was disorganized about the whole thing from the start. The student put the wrong time on the invite, for example, but prominent organizations were quick to add their support, and the event ended up with nearly 1,500 “I will be attending” responses.
Would there really be that many people? I couldn’t quite believe it because first of all, we all know more people will say yes than actually attend. Secondly, it was a chilly (for most people) Minnesota night, and the rally would be held outside, naturally. Thirdly, who the hell ever knows how well-attended a protest/rally will be?
When we reached the Northrop Plaza on the U of M campus, the place was heavily populated. I am really bad at estimating crowd sizes, but I thought there were at least several hundred. I snapped as many pics as I could, taking in the atmosphere surrounding me.
The crowd was mostly African Americans with a few white people sprinkled in here and there. I could count on two hands the Asian people, and two of them were speakers. Kenya McKnight Ahad was MC for the event, and she was, as she said, rocking the hijab. ”Hijabs and hoodies!” Indeed, Kenya, indeed. She kept the speakers cracking, which was good because there were so many of them. Brother Ali rocked the house, speaking truth about white privilege and how he benefits from it simply by existing.
There were several speakers, and the topics ranged from racism of society in general to the outrageous idiocy of the Stand Your Ground law in Florida. Kitten, who had been sitting on the ground playing with rocks, looked up as one speaker described the law and said, “That’s a stupid law.” From the mouth of babes.
I scanned the crowd as I listened to the speakers. More and more people came, and I asked Kat if she thought there were a thousand people there. She is as bad at estimating as I am, but I was fairly sure we had reached at least a thousand. Most of the people were dressed in hoodies, as was this really cute and well-behaved dog (named Riley) pictured below.
People were holding signs ranging from, “Justice for Trayvon Martin” with his face on it to “AM I NEXT?” to “Hoodies and Skittles don’t kill people. People with GUNS do!” and many others besides.
The mood was angry and upset, of course, but there was also a sense of fierce determination that Trayvon’s death would not go quietly into the night. As many of the speakers noted, Trayvon was by far the first to be killed for existing while black, but we had the opportunity to try and make sure he is one of the last.
Some speakers spoke of social media and how none of this (coordinated rallies around the country) would be possible without it. Others mentioned how hard it was on the black family and the black community in general to have their men constantly being viewed as eternally suspicious.
The crowd kept growing and growing as the night went on. We were packed in the middle of a burgeoning crowd, and it did my heart good to see all those Minnesotans out on a chilly Thursday night, rallying to support a teenager who had been killed in the race wars of America, yes, but also rallying to change our country in general.
A guy from Occupy Minneapolis spoke and did his mic check, but I must admit I tuned out. Later on, a woman from Occupy the Hood spoke, too, as well as two reverends, a few poets, and a couple students.
The energy was amazing, and I kept seeing more and more people every time I looked. I found out after later that the police estimated 5,500 people attended. FIVE THOUSAND PEOPLE! I can believe it after seeing the crowd, but how awesome is that?
People were passionate, but peaceful. Kat, Kitten, and I had to leave after the speakers because Kitten hadn’t eaten dinner yet and it was nearly her bedtime, but we watched as the people started marching around the Plaza. The picture below is not great, but if you click on it and make it bigger, you can kinda see how big the crowd was.
We gathered last night for a heartbreaking reason – the death of Trayvon Martin, a young, black boy who was killed and died way before his time. I cried during some of the speeches, but I also laughed, cheered, and hollered during others. The main message I got was that we can’t let this be a one-night rally. We have to continue pressing on for justice for Trayvon and for a change in our criminal system in its entirety as well.
I left feeling energized and determined to continue focusing on Trayvon Martin until he receives justice. If only half the people who attended the rally continue to do something for Trayvon, as Kitten said last night, that’s still a whole lot of people. My Angry Black Readers know my mantra by now – when we stick together, we win. Let’s stick together and make sure Trayvon is never forgotten.
Bonus pic of me looking suspicious in my hoodie and shades.