Marchers Decry Trayvon Martin Court Decision

“I’m very sad and afraid for the black males in our community,” one demonstrator said

Published : Thursday, July 18, 2013 | 4:23 AM

Over one hundred demonstrators walked the streets of Pasadena Wednesday night, singing, praying and wearing hoodies in a peaceful protest of the Trayvon Martin court decision.

The march was sponsored by the First African Methodist Episcopal Church. The demonstrators filtered into the church that warm evening, carrying their sweatshirts. Some organizers also wore shirts with Martin’s photograph on the front.

Reverends Nikia Robert and Melanie Mays (at far right) lead marchers through the Pasadena neighborhood near their First African Methodist Episcopal Church during the peaceful July 17, 2013 protest of the Trayvon Martin court decision. [Photo: James Macpherson]

Reverends Nikia Robert and Melanie Mays read from the book of the prophet Amos and called the group to action, asking, “How can we become Amos today?”

“Social justice is consonant with our faith,” said Reverend Nikia Robert, who explained that the African Methodist church has a history of involvement in the social justice movement from when it was founded in response to racism and segregation in the 1700s.

“It is a Biblical mandate for us to respond and be God’s voice for justice,” Robert said.

Cal Arts student Morgan Booker came all the way from Valencia to participate.

As an African American woman, she said that even she sometimes makes assumptions about race and what people wear.

“Walking home, you see a group of African American males and you wonder how you can get out of the situation,” she said. “It’s something subconscious. How do you change that?”

The theater major lost sleep over Martin’s shooting and plans to write a play about it.

“I personally feel as though things are forgotten so easily – people are so distracted,” she said. “I don’t want this to be put on humanity’s back burner. For me, standing for something is standing through art.”

Robert said that there is a race problem when Americans’ perception of “suspicious” is just “a young boy with a hood.”

“I’m very sad and afraid for the black males in our community,” Sharyn Delahousie said. “I’m hoping people can understand – without guilt – the privilege they have as they just walk down the street.”

Lieutenant Ed Calatayud and other Pasadena police officers attended part of the event.

When he agreed to take questions, some congregants asked why police officers stop and frisk a higher percentage of men of color.

Calatayud said that it was against Pasadena Police Department policy to racially profile citizens.  Gina Haber raised her hand and pressed Calatayud on the issue.

“In my 25 years of service, I’ve never seen a racially motivated officer,” he said. “But that’s not to say that we shouldn’t continue to strive to be better.”

Haber, who brought a hoodie for the protest, later suggested that there should be more forums, not just to see what the police do, but also for the police to listen to citizens’ experiences.

“Changes are being made little by little,” she said. “This feels very historical to me, very important.”

After the prayers and readings, Robert lead the attendees on a protest outside. They walked in a six-block circle around the neighborhood, stopping to sing or pray on the street corners.

“We’ve got to let people know that it is injustice,” said Rodney D. Wallace. “It’s not us against them, black versus white – it’s right versus wrong. As people of peace, our hope is that we don’t sit and wait for the next incident to happen to minimize crime and violence in our neighborhoods.”

Back at the church for closing prayer, Rev. Homer Burnett stepped up to talk to everyone who had gathered.

“What will we do after people forget? What will we do when they pass a Band-Aid law?” he asked. “We keep going. Do your duty. Vote and go to jury duty.”

“No religious observance is a substitute for the way one lives one’s life,” Robert said. “People of faith can move beyond the sanctuary. We will not stay confined in a sacred place when unsacred things are happening in the world.”