Gift from Trayvon

Trayvon Martin (Feb. 5, 1995 – Feb. 26, 2012) should have celebrated his 19th birthday today.

Two years after his death, I find myself still thinking of him. I think about who he might be now (who was I at 19?), I think about his parents’ battle for justice, I think about the stupid insanity that continues to surround George Zimmerman and how it trivializes the fact that he murdered an innocent young man…

But as the years have passed I have repeatedly thought about how the murder of Trayvon woke my writing voice. I had started this blog right before his death in an effort to create a professorial persona that was public–it was a shameless act of self-promotion–but the emotional outrage that I felt over Trayvon’s senseless murder and the lack of justice associated with it yanked me from a fog that I had gotten lost in during my last year of teaching high school and my transition into teaching community college.

I first wrote this post: Teaching Trayvon Martin: The Power of Words and Symbols and next wrote this post: An Open Letter to the Teachers of Trayvon Martin, and with that post, I resurrected a writing job I had landed as an education blogger at The Huffington Post in 2010 (but never had written in because my last year teaching was so awful and I didn’t feel safe talking about it in a public space) and these writings (some that overlap here, others that don’t) were born.

I started writing, and I haven’t stopped.

One of the questions that keeps me awake at night (alongside how to survive New York City in a tsunami/hurricane/terrorist attack) is wondering what I am willing to speak up for, and, if a time comes when I need to speak up, will I have the guts to? I don’t have an answer to that, but I do feel that writing is a way for me to practice using my voice on the regular. I am so grateful to have this form of expression in my life.

And on this day–his birthday–I thank Trayvon, whose death was the genesis of my writing.


Portrait by Shepherd Fairey for Ebony Magazine. — with Rose Cannon.