The SUNY New Paltz Black Student Union (BSU) hosted an event in the Student Union (SU) on Monday, March 26 titled “Young, Black Male and Under Attack.”
The event was held to discuss the recent murder of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin and the war against young black males in the United States, BSU group leaders said.
On Feb. 26, Trayvon Martin was killed by a 28-year-old Neighborhood Watch Captain George Zimmerman. Zimmerman called police when he saw Martin and told them he was “real suspicious” looking, according to the Orlando Sentinel. A police dispatcher told Zimmerman officers were on their way and not to pursue Martin.
Zimmerman followed Martin as he was returning home from a trip to a nearby 7-Eleven. Zimmerman had a 9-millimeter handgun and Martin had a bag of Skittles and a can of iced tea. The confrontation turned into a physical altercation, leading to the death of Martin, according to the Orlando Sentinel.
According to The New York Times, Martin was buried on March 3. Zimmerman said he acted in self-defense. With no evidence to dispute this claim he had not been arrested or charged with any crimes.
More than 30 people sat in SU 407 to discuss the case. Jada Young, a third-year Black Studies major and vice president of BSU, led the discussion illustrating Martin’s death in correspondence with other young black men who she said have been “systematically murdered.”
“Our main goal is to raise awareness,” she said. “This issue is indicative to a larger scale of what’s happening to Black men in all of society.”
Jonathan Espinosa, third-year Black Studies major and historian of BSU, said it’s a pressing issue that people need to be more aware of.
“We need to get the word out so we can organize and mobilize people, and try to make sure these kinds of things stop happening,” Espinosa said.
Professor and Lecturer of Black Studies, La Tasha A. Brown, said Martin’s case struck home with some of her students because a lot of people can relate to his situation. Martin wasn’t affiliated with any violent groups and he was an innocent boy who just went to the store to buy some candy, she said.
“The appeal is that he looks like the ‘boy next door,’ so a lot of students can relate to him,” Brown said.
She said the event was a good way for the students to filter out their frustration about these issues.
President of Student Association Terrell Coakley said it is important for Black parents to inform their kids of the dangers they face and to train them accordingly.
“Black parents need to train their kids with a set of survival skills,” he said. “Also you’ve got to know your rights and know when to use them.”