Cleveland High School students, teachers, and community leaders stepped to the beat of a drum during lunch on April 12 in a “1,000 Hoodies for Trayvon Martin March” against racial injustice. Waving banners and signs that displayed hooded silhouettes, Trayvon Martin, and “Do I look suspicious to you?”, the marchers showed solidarity with the 17-year-old African American male who was shot and killed in late February.
Trayvon Martin and his father had been visiting his father’s fiancee in a gated community in Sanford, Florida. On the night of February 26, Trayvon was walking inside the gated community when 28-year-old George Zimmerman, who was on a self-declared neighborhood watch, got into an altercation with Trayvon, and resulted in shooting him in the chest at close range.
Zimmerman declared that he had acted in self-defense, calling the unarmed Trayvon “suspicious.” Trayvon had been wearing a hoodie at the time but was “armed” only with Skittles and an Arizona drink. After the shooting, Zimmerman was questioned for a few hours, and then released without any charges.
People all over the nation were shocked and angered at the fact that Zimmerman had not been charged even though he had shot an unarmed teenager on the basis of looking “suspicious.” Questions arose as to whether Zimmerman had any racial motivations and “hoodie marches” occurred across the country in protest of the lack of justice done.
Cleveland High students took part in their own “hoodie march.” Village Nation, a renowned organization that seeks for the empowerment of black youth through education, and Cleveland High’s Black Student Union (BSU) hosted the march. The logistics of the march were planned and organized by Community Rights Campaign (CRC), an LA-based organization that seeks to further the rights of marginalized people. Taking Action, which is Cleveland High’s student branch of the CRC, provided banners, fliers, chants, and drum sequences.
“It was a bunch of likeminded people and groups coming together in hopes of making a public display against institutional racism present in the Trayvon murder,” said junior Mahan Naeim, an active member of Taking Action and one of the organizers of the march.
Another Taking Action organizer was junior Moises Santos, who utilized social media to “spread the word” about the march and created a Facebook event in order to bring more publicity to the march. “
Nearly 800 students marched and chanted in unison as they went from one end of the school to the other. Students were joined by Cleveland High teachers and led by CRC members. The march ended at the quad, where students listened to Fluke Fluker, a Cleveland High teacher and founder of Village Nation, as he spoke on racial discrimination. He mentioned the obligations that this generation had to “clean up” the racial tensions still prevalent to this day.
Santos was encouraged by the turn-out. “The student body was amazing. They marched and chanted, and I feel that many people felt like they were Trayvon. I think they felt like they could relate and that definitely added to the power of the movement,” said Santos.
Black students on campus were particularly impacted by the march. “I think this march was very moving for students of BSU because Trayvon is black and he could have been any one of us innocent Black students,” said junior Azeezat Anthonio, a BSU member. “In my opinion, this march not only gave Trayvon Martin a voice but it also gave all African Americans who were innocently killed [in the past] a voice as well.”
There was no opposition from administration and many faculty and staff actually participated in the march. The administration provided visitor passes for CRC members, who were key figures in the march as lead drummers and chanters.
Similar “hoodie” marches and demonstrations have taken place throughout the country in major cities, college campuses, and even, as shown in Cleveland High, high school campuses.