Gainesville remembers Trayvon

Members of the community gathered for a moment of silence and prayer while lighting a candle in memory of Trayvon Martin during the "For Trayvon: We Will Never Forget" community tribute held last Tuesday at Dayspring Baptist Church.

BRAD McCLENNY/Special to the Guardian
Published: Wednesday, March 6, 2013 at 2:09 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, March 6, 2013 at 2:09 p.m.

The one-year anniversary of the shooting death of black teen Trayvon Martin in Sanford did not go unnoticed in east Gainesville.

The Rev. Milford Griner, a pastor of two Alachua County churches, organized a tribute for the slain teen.

Speaking at the tribute held last Tuesday at Dayspring Baptist Church, Griner, also a local civil rights activist, said he saw a news clip of Trayvon's parents, Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin, talking about how it seems "just like yesterday" when their son was killed.

"They need just as much prayer today as they did one year ago," Griner said.

Several people attended the tribute, which featured Evelyn Foxx, president of the Alachua County branch NAACP, and Elder Gilbert Means of Dayspring, joining Griner in sharing their thoughts about the shooting and the subsequent national dialogue about gun violence and racial profiling.

Martin was shot to death last year on Feb. 26 as he walked to his father's house from a nearby convenience store. The shooter was George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer.

Zimmerman has a hearing in April to determine if his "stand your ground" defense is applicable in the case, and depending on the outcome of that hearing, his trial will begin on June 10.

Griner said there will be other community events later in the year to deal with issues surrounding the case.

Foxx said the NAACP took a leadership role in the aftermath of the shooting to make sure the case received the attention it deserved.

"One year later. What do we do and what have we learned?" Foxx asked. She said she made several trips to Sanford a year ago to join Benjamin Jealous, president and executive director of the NAACP; Roslyn Brock, chairwoman of the NAACP board of directors, and other national leaders who aided Turner Clayton, president of the Sanford NAACP, in demanding that justice be served in the case.

Commenting on the atmosphere in Sanford during the rallies last year, Foxx said: "There were so many people there, and there was so much tension that you could just feel it when you got in to Sanford."

Foxx also said that although Alachua County has been spared cases such as the Martin one in recent years, there are serious issues in the county when it comes to juvenile justice. She said juveniles in Alachua County get arrested at a higher rate than in any other county in the state, and she said Florida leads the nation in the same category.

"Right here in Alachua County, we have some serious problems that can possibly lead to an incident like the Trayvon Martin case," Foxx said.

She also said the NAACP will host a community meeting in the near future that will focus on the "pipeline to prison" issue.

"If we do not stay on top of things, anything can happen to our young people," Foxx said. "We have to kind of nurture them and give them some guidance."

Means said on the anniversary of the shooting "it appears the more things change, the more they stay the same."

Means said he does not have the answers to prevent things like the Trayvon shooting from happening, but he said he is convinced of one thing — "We need to educate! Educate! Educate!"

Means emphasized that he was not talking about formal school education only, but the education that occurs when elders in a community sit down and verbally share their wisdom with the youth in the community. He said that education includes understanding the importance of respecting people of different cultures and races because we are all "God's people."

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