Pop Culture, Race & Politics

In Honor Of Trayvon Martin And The #MillionHoodieMarch

Something dawned on me last night while reflecting on all the reading, listening, writing, tweeting, and talking I’ve devoted to all things Trayvon Martin in the last couple of days. Something feels different about this. 

Now, I realize that it could just be me. From Troy Davis and K.O.N.Y. to Tookie and Derrion Albert, there have been numerous recent instances of viral activism and virtual galvanization; causes we collectively championed and people we collectively cried for. I was not as taken by any of those as much as I’ve been taken by Trayvon Martin, and I accept the possibility that this “different feeling” could just be a bit of personal confirmation bias. Of course things are different now. Why? Because I’m finally involved and invested.

With that being said — and recognizing that this could all be in my head — I can not ignore the fact that something about this just feels different. The outrage seems a little hotter. The tears seem a little saltier. That sickness in our stomachs seems a little deeper. And, most importantly, that feeling of “I-don’t-know-what-do-to, but-we-f*cking-need-to-do-something”-ness seems a little stronger.

Hmm. A few days ago, I was talking to my mom about, I don’t know, work or bacon or some other typical bullshit daily minutiae, and right when I was about to get off the phone, she asked “Damon, what do you believe in?”

Even though I heard what she said, I asked her to repeat it because the question caught me so off guard. She did, and I asked if I could get back to her with an answer another time. She laughed, replied “Sure,” but added “You definitely need to think about that, though. You should be able to give me an answer.”

It’s been three days since she asked me that question. I still haven’t thought of a good answer. But, if the Trayvon Martin case has taught me anything, it’s that it’s time for me, time for us, to believe in something, and it feels like we’re finally ready and willing to do that.

—Damon Young (aka “The Champ”)


Random PSA:  Liz is executive producing (yet another) web series for MadameNoire.com called “Ask A Black Man”–a talk show featuring Black men. The topics are all about love, sex, marriage and dating. You won’t want to miss this. New shows air every Wednesday on Madame Noire starting next Wednesday, March 28th. Stay tuned for the trailer. They’re rolling out the bios of each cast member. First up? Panama Jackson, who will appear in two episodes. Check out his bio and some sexxy (for a 3) photos here.

Filed Under:
Damon Young

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB. He is also a contributing editor for EBONY.com. He resides in Pittsburgh, and he really likes pancakes.

  • https://twitter.com/#!/mackaroto Jay

    I find your optimism brave, and your writing skills to be completely on point for this one.

    • Rodger

      I totally agree, not just with your observation of the author, but with the author himself.
      This feels *different*. I’m enraged. I broke into tears the first time when I heard that damnable audio recording, and the ” ‘I-don’t-know-what-do-to, but-we-f*cking-need-to-do-something’-ness” eats away at me.
      I know what I believe in. I believe that this is setting off a vibrational energy among the people that has serious potential to end very, very badly. We’ve got to be strong, but attentive too, so that we get the outcome that honors Trayvon, and really ACHIEVES something from this point forward.

    • GypsyCurl

      I think one reason that the Trayvon Martin murder feels different is bc he was not some thug-looking, weed smoking, ghetto talking, tatted-up mofo. He was, for all intensive purposes, the quintassential boy-nextdoor. The only thing that sets him apart from a white male teenager is the fact that he was a black male teenager.

    • http://tinawatkins.com Tina Watkins

      I agree about the optimism and this post entirely. My family has always been active in community organizing and politics so I’m slow to react. Even with this, not because it isn’t an injustice but because it feels like Rosa Parks. So I guess the intellect in us knows there’s more to it, and is holding out for the hero so to speak.

      My two cents on what the bigger issue might be: http://wlcac.wordpress.com/2012/03/21/trayvon-martin-and-the-stand-your-ground-law-a-flashpoint-for-constitutional-amendment-truly-assuring-voters-rights/

    • http://www.twitter.com/IntenseRndmnss Alana

      I couldn’t have said it better. Your emotions are coming through with this post, and I 100% agree. We, as a people, need to believe in something intangible and fight for that thing!

  • http://afrikanmami.blogspot.com African Mami


    oh mi gosh….for the love that is all stupidity and foolishness. I’ve always harbored a fear that I would never ever be the first to comment on VSB, and today I AM! I feel pumped!!!!!

    I did not read the article by the way…..going to in a few.

    • http://afrikanmami.blogspot.com African Mami

      @ Jay,

      damn you and yo sexy dreads!

      • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M5FR1LGsT7E TheAnti-Cool

        That’s what you get. And his dreds are sexy. :)

        • http://afrikanmami.blogspot.com African Mami

          @ TA-C

          and he sexy too! But I got way too many cyber boos to be adding on to another! Fugg it, you are mine!

          • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M5FR1LGsT7E TheAnti-Cool

            Well let me just move over here…

          • Chanelle

            lol African Mami u a trip…..but he is sexy tho

        • Kema

          Mmmm… Sexy locks

          • https://twitter.com/#!/mackaroto Jay

            Wow, I appreciate the love but yall are embarrassing me. =/ I’m really a high 3 in person. Word to Panama.

            • http://afrikanmami.blogspot.com African Mami

              @ Jay,

              Oh stop it! Just bask in the glory of insanity!

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M5FR1LGsT7E TheAnti-Cool

    And, most importantly, that feeling of “I-don’t-know-what-do-to, but-we-f*cking-need-to-do-something”-ness seems a little stronger.

    I’m feeling this as well when it comes to Trayvon. People are even going so far as calling for a boycott of Skittles and Arizona. Complete nonsense but their hearts are in the right place I guess.

    If asked today, right now what I believe in I would have to answer honestly, “Not much”. Am I ready for that to change? I don’t know.

    • http://voodoochile88.tumblr.com/ Craig and Dem

      “If asked today, right now what I believe in I would have to answer honestly, “Not much”. Am I ready for that to change? I don’t know.”

      TAC I’m with you all the way here. Like wasn’t the 60′s that way (points to the left)? I understand that in this country I’m always gonna be looked at as different but do people really gotta act this ignorant in public?

    • http://www.twitter.com/SmartFoxGirl SmartFoxGirl

      *waves*…I just wanted to say hi…and Skittles are my fav candy, people need to love the rainbow goodness that is Skittles.

      • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M5FR1LGsT7E TheAnti-Cool

        *waves back*

        Hi yourself. I love Skittles too. Unless they can prove that Skittles makes trigger happy racists stalk young black men and gun them down, I will continue to taste the rainbow as well.

    • Caballeroso

      “People are even going so far as calling for a boycott of Skittles and Arizona.”

      I hope this is a joke, otherwise, it’s just plumb dumb! How is Skittles in anyway responsible for this incident to an extent that they should be held financially accountable via a boycott? We really need to start thinking this sh*t through before having knee-jerk reactions, and on a similar note….

      Black Planet… (how I’m on their email list, I have no idea)… has an article entitled “Send in your Skittles for Trayvon Martin”. Huh? No! Don’t get me wrong, I love Skittles and I ‘taste the rainbow’ regularly (#nohomo); HOWEVER, in my opinion, Skittles has gotten enough free advertising and marketing off all this publicity. Unless that company is willing to step up and publicly make an effort in support of Trayvon and his family’s efforts, I cannot support this campaign.

      Looks like with these two competing ideas, boycott vs. mass purchase/mail-in campaign, Skittles will certainly be ok.

      • JessicaL

        I love skittles too but that’s just sick.

      • A Woman’s Eyes

        I don’t see the point in increasing the profits of the company that owns Skittles (Mars). That in itself doesn’t do anything to change the Stand Your Ground laws in Florida or result in the arrest of Zimmerman.

      • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M5FR1LGsT7E TheAnti-Cool

        Unfortunately it’s not a joke. People want to be activists but have little to no understanding of what that would actually entail. Boycotting or supporting random companies is definitely not on the list.

        • sunshyne84

          I don’t think the sending in skittles thing is about increasing profits. I think they are supposed to be a representation of the youth, innocence and the life that was taken and a reminder to those who have failed their community in bringing justice to this situation. It would be nice of Skittles to speak on it, but like most companies I’m sure they don’t want to remain neutral and not get involved in something so big. I don’t see how it could hurt them though, but…..

          This case touches me way more than the others as well, but I still feel helpless and don’t know what to do to make things better. I can’t even bring myself to listen to the 911 call. This type of stuff just kills me. Completely Senseless.

  • http://www.therealslimjackson.com Slim Jackson

    I like the simplicity and realness of this post. And I agree, there’s something about this that separates it from the other injustices we’ve heard about in the last 6 months or so. I think the race factor is making this one hotter, and it’s got people digging into history they’ve tucked away in their minds. History that we gloss over and don’t internalize until something like this happens. Will be interesting to see where this all goes.

    • CurlyTop

      I don’t have a vivid memory of what happened in LA post Rodney King but from youtube clips, documentaries, and google this is what my mind raced to when I heard about Trayvon Martin for the first time (def not saying Rodney = Trayvon here. But one event can spark change be it positive or negative). I live in Florida and really hope that the something isn’t what happened in LA. Painful memories of injustices of the past were awoken in us but the #MillonHoodieMarch gives me hope.

  • PhDreezy

    Spot on!!!!!!!

    Something is coming. I’ve never before seen the raw emotion I’m seeing now. Black people have been pushed aside, marginalized, and murdered too long. I think the camel’s back is breaking, if not broken.

    I think we’re realizing that our position in society won’t change and that racism won’t end and that the promised land of little white boys and girls is a fantasy.

    And I stand with everyone standing. It’s past time.

    • JessicaL

      You summed up my thoughts. I agree this may have been the straw that did it. People were screaming how America was progressing when Obama was voted into office. While I do feel we have come along way we haven’t come far enough. Now this post is in no way preaching my political views. I just feel that we seem to take one step forward and get slammed two steps back. We’re still not equal. I don’t have children but how do I explain to them when I do have them from the moment you were born a target was placed on your back? Especially my boys.

      • rhenewal

        This hypothetical letter to a young black man made me tear up a bit. I don’t want to ever have to say any of this to my kids, but I found myself lecturing me teenaged nephews with incredibly similar words just last night. We live in a sad, sad place.


        • JessicaL

          The saddest part of that letter was the harsh reality. You almost want it to be satirical but its so true.

        • http://urbancusp.com Rahiel

          Thanks for sharing this letter. I can’t tell you all how many people it has touched so I appreciate you helping to spread the word about it.

    • SpirytSista

      “I think we’re realizing that our position in society won’t change and that racism won’t end and that the promised land of little white boys and girls is a fantasy.”

      …meanwhile the president is Black?

      Honestly, i think Black folk find solace in being victims.

      And that’s the REAL reason why things won’t change.

      Nobody wants to look at the mirror and hold ourselves accountable. The vast majority of black youth is not dying b/c of Zimmerman, it b/c of black-on-black crime BY FAR. But nobody’s taking it to the streets. We’d rather just sit around and cry about something.

  • Brandon

    I believe in the fact that it is not illegal to be black.
    I believe that some feel that it is illegal to be black in their neighborhood.
    I believe in justice.
    I believe there will be no justice for any of us if we do not figure out a way to reclaim the image of blackness and black people.
    I believe Zimmerman has not acted alone, in the sense that this is the culmination of the various media portrayals of our people that leads a black man in a hoodie to be a criminal before he can be a student, son, father, or a constructive member of society.

    • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M5FR1LGsT7E TheAnti-Cool

      “I believe Zimmerman has not acted alone, in the sense that this is the culmination of the various media portrayals of our people that leads a black man in a hoodie to be a criminal before he can be a student, son, father, or a constructive member of society.”


      We have never really been in control of our own image and that does need to change.

      • thelonius

        BET and WSHH are probably the most famous “black” media in the world. CNN, BBC, France24 etc we don’t own one equivalent… Black television and cinema is struggling too, too many Tyler Perry from Atlanta to Nollywood etc… We need strong black/African medias.

        • CurlyTop

          You know what, I never considered WSHH as a media outlet. Oh lawd!!!

          • Kandi

            I think that you have touched on a really important point. Even when we get to a point when it “appears” black people have control we doing some ole’ dumb sheeet. We have athletes on the cover of magazines recreating the King Kong and the blond poster. Jay-Z recently refereed to Beyonce as “his bitch”. And I’m steppin’ on toes but we really have to stop using nigga, it doesn’t work publicly. Do what you do in the house but when you go out put your best foot forward, at least that’s what my mom said. We gonna receive hate from outside, and I doubt that will ever change so let’s at least uplift ourselves.

        • http://www.shay-d-lady.com shay-d-lady

          while I can attest to the danger of black stereotypes. I hate when people use this as cause for race relations. this is a symptom not a cause. These stereotypes didnt even begin with “us”

          Blacks since before slavery have ben depicted as savages. thats how the sold it to missionaries who came to “tame us” and took land and resources
          when we were slaves we were depicted as animals, savages, lazy. Step and fetch it, mammies,
          Birth of a nation anyone?
          So we are going to act like centuries of oppression fed to us have nothing to do with the psyche of black people?
          we are just going to act like 10-15 years of negative hip hop imagery is the reason zimmermans exist?
          no it doesnt help but trust the image of the black man as violent and savage is not because of hip hop and BET
          Birth of a nation is still regarded as cinematic genius and was used as a recruiting tool for the KKK and is in the vault of movies right there with Citizen Kane.
          Come on now.
          lets not even talk about the systematic and institutional racism that has played a large part in lack of education and poverty which increases black on black crime and lowers that glass ceiling.
          dont get me wrong I am not saying that we play no role in this.
          but its laughable to me how quickly these things come up to “explain” the problem
          the 50′s and the 60′s werent that long ago. We aint been drinking at the same water fountains long enough to disregard the feelings.
          so because we integrated people stopped feeling llike blacks were inferior? they just stopped and sang kumbaya until hip hop and the Cita came along ?
          again i know that it plays a role and we have to own that but… sigh…

          i want to end this by saying my anger is not directed at anyone personally im just passionate about the sitaution..

          • http://PresidentialTelevisionandFilm.com Monk

            Thank you shay-d-lady for taking the thoughts out of my head and posting.

          • http://overthestory.blogspot.com Angie G.

            I totally agree with this comment. Whenever things go “wrong”, we tend to look for someone or something to blame. We should consider that perhaps this perspective is a little off and leave BET and Tyler Perry out of the conversation.

            What do I believe in? I believe that we are all responsible for our own lives. I believe that each INDIVIDUAL has the ability to be the change they want to see in the world. In the end, that is ALL we have conrol over. The Zimmerman’s of the world will continue to be who they are because that is who they are freely choosing to be. That is something that we cannot change. Tolerance and understanding cannot be forced and it cannot be legislated.

          • Tiffany

            LOVED everything about this comment!

        • http://commentarybyvalentina.wordpress.com/ Val

          BET is owned by Viacom, so it’s not a Black media outlet. And the controlling owner of TV One is Comcast. Which is partly why it’s so hard for us to control our images in the media.

      • GypsyCurl


        Such a great point!

    • http://dodreamaisha.wordpress.com dodreamaisha

      DEAD the f*uck on.

  • Cheech

    I really hope that this situation actually will make people become more aware of the suffering in our country before they go elsewhere. I also hope that it makes us listen to the news more and aware of our communities, local, national and global. This could be a turning point for us as a multicultural people.

    • GypsyCurl

      “I really hope that this situation actually will make people become more aware of the suffering in our country before they go elsewhere.”

      I dont think we should criticize people for wanting help people all over the world. If anything, black Americans should be volunteer more around the world so people will know that the image they see of black Americans on tv is false. I get so annoyed every time I travel abroad and no one ever guesses/assumes that I am American. America is not just white. Black Americans need to make their presence known workdwide.

  • anon87

    I almost got in an argument because a friend doesn’t understand why this particular incident is causing such a stir compared to so many other deaths of innocent young black people. I just assumed that most people get that something is DIFFERENT about this case and wasn’t completely able to articulate that feeling. Being able to articulate it will be helpful, but I will continue to assume that this friend is in the minority.

    • itsgoodtrustme

      Same situation only it was with a friend who resides in Sandford. He is taking a laid back, not getting involved approach. I said if this is how they respond to a teen what the hell you think a neighborhood watch goon gone do when he come across your grown azz. I said you may also have to call on Sandford PD….yea the same Sandford PD who didn’t do their job when it came to Trayvon.

    • http://PresidentialTelevisionandFilm.com Monk

      I keep hearing the “it’s different” speech from others, yet no one has been able to exactly define the difference really. Not to make light of this senseless murder, but I do feel like we constantly make light of ALL the other senseless murders that are happening RIGHT NOW across our country.

      Call me a pessimist or what have you, but I also don’t see how wearing a hoodie is going to significantly make an impact on changing the racist climate that exists in America and across the globe.

      • SpirytSista

        It’s just the latest social media craze, that’s all.

        Black children are murdered senselessly everyday, but nobody cares. I guess its okay as long as its by a black person.

        • JessicaL

          I really want to ask how dare you. I have lost friends and family members to senseless violence at the hands of black men. I am outraged and saddened when any child dies let alone murdered. I kept quiet hearing such vicious assumptions but I’m growing weary of them.

  • http://commentarybyvalentina.wordpress.com/ Val

    I am such a cynic that I’m not sure if I can really believe in anything anymore. As for the Trayvon situation; I think once that bastard Zimmerman is arrested, most of the unity and protests will cease. I mean 40 people were shot in Chicago last weekend, where’s the outrage. An unarmed Black guy named Ramarley Graham was murdered in NYC by police not too long ago, where’s the outrage? Black people suffer roughly twice the unemployment rate of the general population, the President ignores it. Where’s the outrage?

    My point; as much as I’m pissed by the murder of Trayvon and the subsequent cover-up by police in Sanford, Florida, I just don’t know what long term effect protests will have. When this sort of thing happens again, then what?

    I wish I wasn’t so cynical but I am.

    • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M5FR1LGsT7E TheAnti-Cool

      This here is my exact problem and how I’m feeling about this case.

      Would I take to the streets if they decided to march for those 40 people shot here last weekend? No. Cause I would be thinking that there will be another 40 the next weekend no matter what I do. I’m glad there are people out there that feel the exact opposite and are trying to keep hope alive for those of us who find it hard to.

      • shatani


      • http://commentarybyvalentina.wordpress.com/ Val

        “I’m glad there are people out there that feel the exact opposite and are trying to keep hope alive for those of us who find it hard to.”

        Me too.

        • Justmetheguy

          Yeah, I’m with yall. Cynicism isn’t a strong enough word for me. This is one of thousands of issues I have with the world. The issues (racism/racial profiling/imperialism, inequality in the justice system etc;)birth more issues because people get outraged about the symptoms (because nothing can be done about the root cause, ignorance and ideology) and the sickness keeps infecting more and more people/aspects of society. I swear I just can’t bring a kid into this world. So sad…I hope the optimists come up with a plan I can get behind, even though I’m fresh out of ideas myself…

    • http://afrikanmami.blogspot.com African Mami

      Your cynicism is validated by the mere fact that the outrage will soon die, and then we’ll settle into the our normal routines, and wait for another omogojogororo or trey trey to be six feet under. It is what it is! Unfortunately….We can only be our brothers/sisters keepers at this point. I think it is hella stupid for us to be killing each other, we are all we got!

      • CurlyTop

        Oh my word African Mami please tell me you don’t know a “omogojogororo”

        • http://afrikanmami.blogspot.com African Mami

          I do he is Nigerian, and his name means most High and favored-which hopefully will equate to dodging bullets and becoming the next president of the United States of America!

          • Kandi

            LOLOLOL I guess we can’t take you nowhere. Wait Im pretty sure that my second cousin whats his last name sholafolakolabola or seunsegunseye

    • IET

      I think we collectively have always accepted the fact that our criminal justice system is racially biased. Since we’ve come a long way with this fake notion of equal protection under the law maybe collectively, we’ve settled. Knowing that if we just “stay out of trouble” then we’d be fine.

      This murder has shocked us all out of that. I also think what’s different about this case is the kid was lynched by a citizen and covered by our criminal justice system. Maybe we are no longer going to accept our lack of equal protection because it’s become too unequal all over again. If people can follow you, corner you, start an altercation, then murder you while you scream for help, then how is that different then a modern day lynching?

      Our collective acceptance of the bias in the criminal justice system is what has changed. Collectively, I think we are feeling, and saying “no mas.”

    • http://www.styleillusions.com WIP

      I think (I hope) the result of this will be that people will think twice about their fear of black men. People of all races (because white people aren’t the only ones who can be racist. People keep saying “he’s hispanic” as if that means he can’t be racist) who clench when they see a young black man in a hoodie walking down the street will remember Trayvon and unclench and say “hi” instead of rushing by. Idealistic, yes, but I feel like this conversation is important.

      • http://vanityinperil.com Vanity in Peril

        A friend of mine last week pointed out that she is making an effort to say “hello, how are you?” to all the young black guys that she passes in her day to subliminally let them know that a. Adult black women have their backs and that b. we see and value them. I am totally behind this and had to admit (like her) that in the past I have been guilty of ignoring them in fear they will try and holla (holla holla holla holla holla holla). I think something as little as saying hello can go a long way.

        • Justmetheguy

          ” A friend of mine last week pointed out that she is making an effort to say “hello, how are you?” to all the young black guys that she passes in her day”

          Snickers. Down South black women have done this all along lol, good idea though, I always wanted to see more of that up North. A lot of progress can be made just from making such a small change. Props to your friend.

          • http://vanityinperil.com Vanity in Peril

            lol, Yeah being an original West-Coaster, I say hi to everyone. But after living on the East, it kind of beats it out of you. It’s sad but it’s true. People look at you like you just said “I went caca in my dyedee” when you say hello over here… most times.

          • http://www.styleillusions.com WIP

            Oddly enough, I’ve heard that too but in the context of relationships. Black men says white women are friendly and say “hi, how are you” but black women have attitudes and won’t say anything (regarding Vanity’s comment about men trying to holla). Hopefully this issue will reach many more demographic of people who fear or avoid black men.

    • DQ

      I understand cynicism… I really do. But cynicism is the mother of all apathy. And apathy begets the next tragedy. Ask yourself, where would we be if the Civil Rights leaders that came before us where cynics?

      I’m not asking anyone to believe that things can change, I’m expecting that to be a foregone conclusion as you ENSURE that things can change. Protests are just part of the equation. It keeps the issue in the fore front, so we don’t get complacent. The protests aren’t the end game, the end game is changing the perception that profiling is inevitable and acceptable, and with that change in perception (hopefully) we can change laws to reflect it.

      Be outraged, and be ready to work for change.

      • http://uphereoncloud9.wordpress.com Wu Young, Agent of M.E.

        “cynicism is the mother of all apathy”


        • Tiffany


    • dos pesos

      I understand the cynicism, but Trayvon’s case may be different than the 40 in Chicago because

      (1) the identity of the killer was known immediately;
      (2) the victim was as sympathetic as you can get; a baby-faced teenager; and
      (3) The Sanford PD seem to be actively helping the murderer evade arrest and prosecution. In a sense, the Sanford cops are accomplices to the murder.

      I don’t know the facts of the Chicago murders, but is there a sense from the community that the cops are acutally protecting, aiding and abetting a known perpetrator of any of the 40 murders? I think that is a crucial difference here and why Trayvon’s case stands out.

      • http://www.todisspits.blogspot.com MicTheMessenger

        All of what you said bruh, plus:

        a significant number of the shootings in Chicago were in the South side, which is majority black and lower/poverty class

        Chicago’s body count is nothing new. When the weather breaks, the body count rises with the temperature. LITERALLY.

        Chicago’s south side shootings are typically black on black or gang related.

        EVERY branch of Chicago gov’t/law enforcement has known corruption.

        It’s amost like no one in the city even CARES that this stuff is happening, cuz it happens everyday.

  • naturalista88

    I wanna say something, but I’m sure it’ll just come off as very negative & full of pessimism so I’ll just come back in the morning. Hopefully I’ll have something positive to say @ that time.

    • shatani

      lmao. I just went ahead with it.

      • naturalista88

        I almost did, but w/the way I feel about people as a whole I figured I’d just give myself some time before going off on a tirade *lol*.