Written for the Mayor of Hempstead
From the Desk of Mayor Hall
Last Saturday, in Hempstead, hundreds rallied for Justice for Trayvon. At the Federal Courthouse in Manhattan, Trayvon’s mother, Sybrina Martin, the Rev. Al Sharpton and others were joined by a multi-racial crowd of supporters, while Trayvon’s father addressed rallygoers in Miami. Candlelight vigils and demonstrations were held from Asheville, North Carolina to Las Vegas, Nevada as public outrage over the verdict in the George Zimmerman case mounted.
The rallies came about because Reverend Sharpton, the founder of the National Action Network (NAN), called on 100 cities in the United States to join together to call for change. While the Reverend spoke in New York, the Nassau County chapter of NAN brought hundreds of Village residents and other Long Islanders together to pay respect to Trayvon’s memory and to send a clear message: We demand justice on behalf of Trayvon and all the other black and brown young people whose lives are at risk because of racial profiling and Stand Your Ground laws.
Faith-leaders and other activists addressed the crowd at the Village’s rally. Well-known civil rights attorney Fred Brewington led the plea for an impartial justice system. Rev. Dr. Sedgwick Easley, of Union Baptist Church, called for a collective movement that results in tangible changes to state laws. The reverend made clear that we are done with seeing the lives of black and brown boys and men devalued.
Travis Nelson, an African American student at Hempstead High School, offered a frightening assessment: ‘What happened to Trayvon could happen to anyone. It could happen to our neighbors and community members; it could happen to our sons and daughters. It could happen to me.’
Travis’s speech reminded us that until sweeping changes are made to the American Justice system our youth may never truly be safe.
Changes must be made when 31-year old Marissa Alexander, a woman in Florida, shoots a gun into the air in an attempt to dissuade her abuser and receives a 20-year sentence, despite using Stand Your Ground as a defense; yet George Zimmerman walks free after pursuing and shooting an unarmed teenager.
Changes must be made when New York’s Stop and Frisk policy unjustly targets hundreds of thousands of African American and Hispanic young men each year, sending fear into the hearts of the community and placing the freedom and well-being of those boys and young men at risk.
Hempstead is not immune to the ailments that plague our nation. We know what it’s like to be racially profiled. We know what it’s like to be treated inequitably. And as the rally at our courthouse, and the rallies across America, made clear this past weekend, we will no longer accept this reality.
Laws that support racial profiling are far more dangerous than an individual’s personal biases.
It is up to us, the people, to make sure that our lawmakers, locally and in Washington, get the message that we will no longer stand for the injustices that have been written into law.
It is not acceptable for the blood of our youth to be spilled onto concrete sidewalks under sanction of our nation’s laws. We say today: Stand Your Ground must fall. For more information on the Nassau County chapter of NAN, visit their website, visit www.nassaunan.org. There you can find information on future activity, apply for membership, and learn about how you can join the fight at the Realize the Dream March in Washington, D.C. in August.
Wayne J. Hall Sr.
Mayor of the Incorporated Village of Hempstead