The death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Florida touched many across the nation, including UMKC student and U-News Forum Editor Kharissa Forte. She organized a march last Saturday in honor of Martin, emphasizing that the people of the university “have the power to invoke change.”
The march was to begin at the Culture House at 53rd Street and Rockhill Road at 10:30 a.m., but rain forced the small group to head to the School of Education for the keynote address from Reverend Stan Archie, Missouri Board of Education Vice President.
Evan Cleaver, who had been at the Culture House for the march, presented an original poem in honor of Martin, titled “Stand Your Ground.”
This poem contained lines such as, “All the other kids with the suspicious-colored skin better run,” and, “Let us run circles around their loopholes and claim selfdefense.”
Archie then moved to the podium wearing a Missouri Tigers hoodie – which he said he was wearing the day Martin was killed. He spoke about the silence of racism and how the “mute button” is usually on.
He said when something like this happens, when someone gets hurt, we finally turn the sound back on.
He made an analogy to playing basketball “a few years ago.” He said of his basketball team and of America, “We don’t function as if we’re all playing with the same uniform.”
His tall friend was not a good player, but Archie told him to stand under the net and block shots. A few minutes later, when Archie went to take a shot, the friend blocked it, even though he was on the same team. Archie said that throughout his life, the people who have blocked his shots have been people wearing his same uniform, and this needs to change.
“We must pave the way for tomorrow’s generation to excel,” he said.
“You pretty much said it all,” Roger Suggs said. “This right here is the foundation of change, the small numbers.”
Archie, referring to the small turnout, said, “Nobody follows the leader. Everybody follows the first follower.”
Investigations into Martin’s death are being conducted by the U.S. Justice Department and by the state attorney in Seminole County, Fla.