'Talk' the truth


Published: Wednesday, July 31, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, July 30, 2013 at 6:13 p.m.

In memory of Trayvon Martin, I write this letter to you.

What happened to Trayvon, being shot down in the street in broad open daylight, says a lot about the society we live in. The Cultural Arts Coalition, along with other youth programs, teaches our children that they are somebody, both boys and girls.

We teach them that their lives are worth working hard for and being successful. We teach them respect for other human beings, no matter their age, color or religious affiliation. We teach them that they will be judged by their character, not their skin color.

The community outside says to half of our children — our black boys, especially — that they are not equal, that their lives are not worth making every effort to succeed. When I think about Trayvon, I cannot help seeing the image of Emmett Till's body in his casket, all swollen and badly bruised. He lay there dead because he was a black boy.

I think of all the forgotten black boys and men (and sometimes women, too) who hung from trees, their bodies burned because they were black. I think of the pain and humiliation that black men and boys suffer every day now because they are black.

Yet, we parents and community leaders feel it is so important to have the "talk" with our black sons. The "talk" that says to be "humble" to white people, don't make them uncomfortable by speaking "black." The "talk" that says be extra respectful to law enforcement and don't be surprised when white people cross the street so they don't have to walk by you.

The "talk" that says don't be surprised when a white woman clutches her purse when you are in a space with them. The "talk" that says you have already been judged before your identity is known and that you are a black man, your life is worthless, you are less than human, and three-fifths of a man.

In memory of Trayvon, I plead with my white brothers and sisters to have the "talk" with your children. Tell them the TRUTH — you cannot judge a person because of the color of their skin, teach your children to respect all human life, for we are one, made by the same creator.

We are one. I am because we are.

Make sure that Emmett Till, Trayvon Martin and the thousands of other black people who have been killed did not die in vain. Let this society in this time be known as the one that told the children the TRUTH.

NKwanda Jah is executive director of the Cultural Arts Coalition, which sponsors the annual 5th Avenue Arts Festival and also cultural, environmental and self-confidence programs for Gainesville/Alachua County youth.

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