Local residents pay tribute to Trayvon's memory
Published: Tuesday, February 26, 2013 at 10:38 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, February 26, 2013 at 10:38 p.m.
Before he spoke, the pastor scanned the room. The eight-person congregation was silent. The ceiling fan twirled above like a dreidel. Only the faint hum of music equipment sliced the air.
“Not one of us can rest until there is justice for that 17-year-old young man,” the Rev. Milford Lew Griner said, “but we need to find a way to talk about violence, talk about racism, talk about all these violent things. Try to understand: These things have happened and will happen again.”
Tuesday marked the one-year anniversary of the death of Trayvon Martin, and in Gainesville, members and locals gathered at Dayspring Missionary Baptist Church, at 1945 NE Eighth Ave., to hold tribute to the black teenager who was shot and killed in Sanford last spring.
“This is a death that didn’t have to happen,” said Griner, a 54-year-old visiting pastor who’s preached in Methodist churches in Jonesville and Rochelle for more than 30 years. “I was saddened and angry — very angry — when I heard about it. But the more we talk about these things, the more it helps us learn from what has happened.”
A couple weeks ago, Trayvon Martin would have celebrated his 18th birthday, Griner said. Now, he’s the only person resting during a period of unrest and upheaval.
Griner recalled the story: Martin was walking home from a convenience store. All he wanted was tea and Skittles, and he was wearing a hoodie. George Zimmerman, a neighborhood guard, saw the teenager and thought he exhibited suspicious behavior. He trailed Martin and fatally shot him after a skirmish broke out.
“Why was he (Zimmerman) allowed to go home?” Griner asked. He paused, staring out at the audience. “One year later, there’s finally — finally — going to be a trial.
“We need to lift our voices as a community,” he continued, “and say we want justice for Trayvon.”
Griner then opened the floor for speakers.
Gilbert Means, a Dayspring elder of about 10 years, removed his glasses and stood. As he spoke, he held his rolled-up program.
“I don’t know what it takes,” he said. “All people need to learn to recognize and respect each other because we are all God’s people in the first place.
“He was God’s child. Trayvon Martin was God’s child.”
Means sat back down and scribbled on a corner of his program: “Stop killing our young black youth. Let them grow up.”
In downtown Gainesville, it was 7 p.m. A cold breeze swept through the Bo Diddley Community Plaza, where about 40 people from the local chapters of Students for a Democratic Society and Dream Defenders had also gathered to commemorate Martin’s life.
The two advocacy groups, which draw primarily from University of Florida students, wanted to raise awareness, said SDS spokesperson Farah Khan, 19.
“We want to make sure there’s constant pressure so that people don’t forget,” the UF student said.
Throughout the evening, more than five speakers shouted their views through a megaphone.
During her speech, Khan said, “not everyone in America has the fortune to be of the correct ethnicity.”
“I was raised to be paranoid,” she said.
After Dayspring’s vigil, Griner drove over to the downtown rally and spoke.
“I’m not a UF student,” he said. “I’m a student of justice. And I’ll be with you until the end. Whether you’re young, old, black, white, rich or poor, you say, ‘I am Trayvon Martin.’ ”
Behind him, in neon letters, glowed the message, “I Am Trayvon.”
Reader comments posted to this article may be published in our print edition. All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.