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Youth Coalition Reflects on the Zimmerman Trial

By Phillip Agnew


EDITOR’S NOTE: In the face of opposition, the Dream Defenders, a multi-racial coalition, was founded after the murder of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman in Florida. The coalition exists to train youth in nonviolent direct action and civic engagement in order address racism, immigration reform and student issues.

The following article was recently published on the Dream Defender’s blog. {Young}ist editors believe that this article—channeling Students for Democratic Society’s 1962 “The Port Huron Statement” and the Black Panther Party’s 1966 “Ten-Point Program”—speaks to the complexity of the Zimmerman trial, the current political climate in the United States, the reality of anti-Black racism and the necessity for a social movement that addresses the needs of people of color. Previously, {Young}ist has described the Dream Defenders as “our generation’s Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee” and when you read this article you’ll see why.


America in the Mirror

By Dream Defenders

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”- Charles Dickens, 1859

We will never forget his name.  We can close our eyes and visualize his smiling face, etched in our memories, and refreshed daily.  In him, many opposites attract: if only in our thoughts, though gone, he lives forever.  Through his murder, millions were awakened.  And indeed, from his death, the Dream Defenders were born.  We will be forever linked to the name Trayvon Martin.  He is everything about our history, the totality of our beginnings, and our reason for being.

He was our alarm clock, our wakeup call; as he was for so many around the world.

Some time in the near future, another man’s fate will be decided, with the whole world to witness.  Closing arguments will be made, a gavel will sound, a verdict will be read, a shockwave will circle the globe, and the world will send up a collective sigh of relief as America has endured yet another year of being forced to glare at its own reflection.

Soon, our compulsion to examine the ugliness that is racism and inequality in our country will subside, but it will not change the image in the mirror.  America has grown comfortable with a growing number of ‘inconvenient truths.’  None of which this trial and the circus surrounding the verdict will ever address or remedy.  The America in the Mirror has grown less sensitive and empathetic to inequality in our country. Our sense of humanity has been eroded, and our very sanity is now predicated on ignorance to the pain of others.  Watching coverage of the case, we are left to contend with a laundry list of questions:

Who are we?  How did we get here?  Where are we going as a Country?  Where is our humanity?


It would seem that our national search for truth and reconciliation rests on the shoulders of six women in a Sanford courtroom.  We watch with sadness at the sensationalism of every moment: the all night analysis of every interaction and exchange, the screaming face of Nancy Grace, the five-paneled-screens of scrutiny, the World vs. Frank Taaffe, the debasing and dehumanization of Rachel Jeantel.

We believe that this case says more about us as people than it does George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin.  We contend that this trial will change our course no more than that of OJ Simpson or the bludgeoners of Rodney King or the murderers of Martin Lee Anderson.  The battle for true Justice in an unequal society is never that simple. Yet, As you read this, the “talking heads” are engaged in an all-out assault on your conscience.  They would have you believe that this issue is Black & White. Trayvon vs. Zimmerman.  Good vs. Evil. Right vs. Wrong: “Choose a side!  Argue your view!!  Who should pay?!”

Yet, if we were to truly reflect on the America in the Mirror, we would realize that we are all complicit in death of Trayvon Martin.  Through our refusal to acknowledge that our country and economic systems breed hate, division, inequality, profiling, distrust, racism, and death, we have allowed for a society that molded Trayvon Martin into a stereotype to turn George Zimmerman into a scared, prejudiced, profiling killer. The loss of this child is not just a ‘Black issue.’  It is an American tragedy.  Our America raised and snuffed out Trayvon Martin, as our America raised and decides the fate of George Zimmerman.

Our America is bewitched by labels: Black, Brown, White, Gay, Criminal, Illegal, Monster, Vigilante, Nigger, Cracker.  These labels cover us.  They conceal our similarities.  They divide us.  They have rendered us inhumane.  They have allowed us to turn the murder of one of our brothers by one of our brothers, into a media spectacle.  We can no longer see ourselves in others.  We can no longer believe in each other.  We are afraid to connect.  We are bewildered by difference.  We are fearful of all things foreign. The murder of a child before they’ve seen womanhood or manhood should shake each of us to the core of our being.  A society that convinces a man or woman to live in fear of that child should leave us all baffled and heartbroken.

We didn’t allow this to happen.  We designed it to.

This case has captured global attention and, once again, the world is watching as we deal with the America in the mirror. We believe that this trial offers us an opportunity to chart a different course; one that spares us from this slippery slope.  We must realize that our world, and our America is changing.  Gone are the days of Black & White. A true movement of the People must speak to this.   We must build a resistance that transcends the divisions that America uses to conquer us.  We must cease from framing our movement in the ways of the oppressor.

We challenge you to remember that real change must begin with us. It’s time for a new generation of leaders and world changers to rise up: above the mindless banter that distracts us and against the systems that divide us.

“Our goal is to create a beloved community and this will require a qualitative change in our souls as well as a quantitative change in our lives.”- Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

We, the Dream Defenders, challenge you to stare intensely at the America in the mirroir.  We challenge you to shun the labels.  We challenge you to remember the humanity you felt when you first heard the sad tale of Trayvon Martin. We challenge you to find the humanity in each of us; to see the human in the mirror. We challenge you to find yourself as guilty as George Zimmerman. We challenge you turn off your television and engage in a real conversation with yourself, a friend, and a stranger. They expect us to riot; to torch cities and burn bridges.  They expect us to disperse; to wait for the next ambulance. But we challenge you to build. Real Power. We challenge you to channel your anger, your confusion, and your angst into a passion for positive action. We challenge you to question your truths. We challenge you to organize. We challenge you to see this case for what it truly is: a beginning.  There is still much work to do, and it all begins with you.

For only then, can we begin to win. May peace always prosper over profit, outcome over income, revolution over revenue, and Community over everything. All Power to the People.

In solidarity,


Check out the Dream Defenders’ new website at and follow the organization on Twitter @DreamDefenders.

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Phillip Agnew

Executive Director of the Dream Defenders

Catch up with me @PhilUnchained_.

racial justice





July 09, 2013

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