In the weeks since Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager, was killed in Florida, my anger and frustration has grown in many different ways. It’s true that events like this, when brought to national attention, bring out the best in some and the worst in others. From the idiotic comments made by Geraldo Rivera to the pleas for compassion and understanding I’ve seen from others, at the very least, this case has provided a forum for people to discuss things like racial discrimination, prejudice and profiling at a time when so many others would like issues of ethnic inequality to be swept under the rug (well, I’m sure there’s always been a time when people would’ve liked issues of ethnic inequality to be swept under the rug, but they seem to be becoming more bothersome these days in supposed “post-racial” America.) Even if you take away the racial elements of this incident and it’s aftermath, the fact of the matter is that a pair of parents needlessly and unnecessarily lost their child and a life with potential (as almost all 17 year old lives are) was snuffed out too soon. That’s enough to warrant some discussion and protest.
One of the things that has frustrated me is the muted response by the artistic community. I was living in New York City in 1989 when Yusuf Hawkins was murdered by a gang of white teens in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, and the reaction-especially from the hip hop community-was swift. Big names in the entertainment industry-the Jay-Zs, Kanye Wests and Lil Waynes of the world-have been oddly (and in my opinion, inexcusably) quiet. Guess when you have bling and women, you’re in that rarified air where social issues don’t matter to you anymore. Thankfully, other members of the artist community, ranging from Bruce Springsteen (who I saw deliver a spine-tingling version of “American Skin (41 Shots)” in concert last night) to Chaka Khan have stepped up to the plate.
This hastily assembled (but still enjoyable) version of “Super Life” (which, in it’s original incarnation, is on Chaka’s excellent 2008 album Funk This) and the attendant video features cameos from everyone from Eric Benet to Angela Bassett. Good for Chaka for donating her music and voice to an issue that needs to be discussed, and good for all of the artists who participated. Follow their campaign on Twitter by using the hashtag #fearkillsloveheals.
There are a few petitions floating around that are being brought to Florida officials, urging for justice in the Trayvon Martin case. Here’s one. You don’t have to sign this specific one, but I urge you to sign something. Make your voice heard.