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.