Among the throngs of people we encountered during the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, we were also met with some of the same sentiments the people carried back in 1963.
And even a half century later, Martin Luther King Jr.’s iconic “I Have a Dream” speech still speaks volumes to the inequalities and injustices on minorities, gay couples and women.
The feeling that MLK’s dream had never really been actualized hit hard after the acquittal of George Zimmerman, the former neighborhood watch volunteer who shot and killed Trayvon Martin in February 2012. The justice system that had failed in arresting or charging Zimmerman for nearly two months after the shooting also failed Trayvon and a community of mourners when they let his killer walk free.
It was, in a sense, as if we had trucked back to 1963 – a year where “open season” on black men was a reality, not a shock.
Enter Daniel Maree. When he founded the Million Hoodies Movement for Justice, he had a few goals in mind, but one in particular was to make sure Trayvon Martin’s life and death was not in vain. And in doing so, Maree is channeling the activists and beacons of change before him.
Was it any surprise he attended the March on Washington last Saturday and facilitated a virtual march (a necessity for youth involvement in a new world of technology) to include everyone with similar goals globally?
Not at all.
We caught up with Maree at the March and he told GlobalGrind’s news and politics writer, Ishaw Thorpe, the significance of Million Hoodies at the anniversary march, the power of the youth, and lessons to tell our children about Trayvon Martin.
What do you hope others, especially youths, can take away from this 50th anniversary march?
I hope they take away two things. One, they take away a newfound sense of leadership and direction in the leaders who are Rev. Al. Sharpton and Dr. Bernice King. That is really important for us to know. I think for young people, it’s up in the air who is the modern civil rights leader. With the death of Dr. King we lost an icon, we lost a hero, we lost somebody who was the leader of the post civil rights movement and the same with Malcolm X. So, we’ve been lost for a long time. But I think today reestablished our leadership in the form of Rev. Al Sharpton, in the form of Dr. Bernice King, so I’m really happy about that. And the other thing I feel like young people should take away from this is the fact that what they spoke about was the fact that we needed to step up and we need to do the important and hard work to make sure that we not only have direction in our lives, but that we’re helping each other out, our fellow brothers and sisters. And that we are not behaving like hoodlums, and that we’re leading the way in a sense. We’re leading change and being responsible young people of color.
History is so important, but how do we convey that to our young?
It is so important for young people to never forget their history, because if you don’t know where you’ve been, you don’t know where you’re going. As a South African American, I have a rich, really rich sense of history when it comes to civil rights, when it comes to fighting for a just cause. And without that sense of history, without that sense of where I come from, without that knowledge that my grandfather was on Robin Island with Nelson Mandela, without that knowledge that my father was an active agent for change in the anti-apartheid movement, I wouldn’t be inspired to have started Million Hoodies perhaps. I wouldn’t have the basis and the founding and the grounding that I needed to do this hard work, because it’s not easy.
Has America truly changed since the first march?
I do think America has come a long, long way since the first march. Obviously we have an African American president; we have an African American attorney general. These are momentous shifts that have taken place in the past few years and a big reason for that change is young people. Young people are single-handedly responsible for bringing that change about. So that’s really inspiring to me because there is so much more we can do. Now that we have the leadership in place in the government, now we can actually start to affect social change and judicial change on the ground.
What do we tell our children about injustice and Trayvon Martin?
If I had children, I would tell them that they are loved, that they do matter, that Trayvon did matter…they have every right, they have as many rights as a human being and as an America citizen, as anybody else in this world no matter what their color, religion, gender, sexual orientation. You have a right to…be who you are. No matter if you wear baggy pants or listen to loud music or smoke marijuana or any of that, no matter what or who you are, you have a right to exist just as much as anybody else. And nobody has the right to judge you for who you are other than by the content of your character as Dr. Martin Luther King tells us. So go on being who you are, do your thing, stay proud, stay black and proud, stay smart, get your education and you are the future, to make sure when you are our age, this never happens again. Make sure that you be the generation that makes a difference so that you can look back one day and say to your children, one day there was a kid named Trayvon Martin and he was shot and killed because of the color of his skin…and that doesn’t happen anymore.