The Daily Grind Video

Monday morning. Early. Media trucks buzzing. The buzzing of helicopters from above. Television networks trying to catch a glimpse. Police officers talking through ear pieces. Lots of officers, lots of chatter. Secured perimeter. Family and defendant en route to courthouse. Florida heat beats down on the supporters of Trayvon as they chant “no justice, no peace.” Supporters of Zimmerman are no where to be seen. Secret entrance for family and defendant. The murder trial of George Zimmerman has begun.

I sat behind the family of Trayvon Martin for the first two days of the trial of the man who had put a bullet through the heart of their son just sixteen months ago. The State versus George Zimmerman. It rained that night in Sanford, Florida when the young seventeen year old lost his life. Today, there would be no rain, just heat. Lots of heat. From the sun, from the media, from the judge, from the prosecutors and from the defense lawyers.  A jury pool of five hundred local residents gathered on the first floor of the courthouse, filling out a questionnaire to see if they would make it to the second round.  One by one they would be dragged into the courtroom and picked apart by both the state prosecutor and the two men representing the accused killer.  What did they know about the death of Trayvon? How did they get their information? What newspapers did they read?  TV stations did they watch? The answers were all different, except for one question, which seemed to get the same answer across the board from one particular racial group.  The question about what some label as riots. Protests. An Uproar. Marches. Rallies. Many white potential jurors (and one black Fox News watching guy) were disgusted, annoyed, scared, turned off, disapproving of “outsiders” who came into their small, central Floridian town to “cause trouble.” And when asked who these “outsiders” were, almost everyone said Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson.

I certainly can understand that any citizen in any town in America does not want the attention that this case has brought to Sanford. Nobody wants to wake up to a march of 30,000 people down their Main Street with every media outlet in America watching closely. I get that. I can respect that. But, as I sat behind the courageous parents of Trayvon for two days listening to some of these upset potential jurors, the only thing that I kept thinking was that nobody wants to wake up without having the chance of saying “good morning” to their son.  That is why I flew to Sanford in late March, 2012 to march with the parents, Jesse and Rev. Al along with thousands of local residents calling for the imminent arrest of George Zimmerman.  It was justice for the family of Trayvon Martin that we fought for, and I am proud to have been a supporter.  And I am white.

Rev. Al Sharpton and Rev. Jesse Jackson are heroes are mine. For decades they have fought against injustices in this country that have stained our flag with more blood than the seven red stripes that it possesses. Injustices that predominantly have occurred in the African-American community, however that does not make them injustices solely against black people.  The shooting of Amadou Diallo was an American injustice. The sodomizing of Abner Louima was an American injustice. The death of Sean Bell was an American injustice. The desire to end Affirmative Action in Texas was an American injustice. The trial against six young men in Jena, Louisiana was an American injustice. The lack of jobs in urban communities is an American injustice. The shooting of an unarmed teenager by a vigilante on a Sunday night in Sanford, Florida was an American injustice.  As white people, we must recognize that for this country to truly reach its place on the mountaintop, any injustice against any of one of our citizens, regardless of race, class, creed or color, is our problem too. 

Certainly, Rev. Sharpton and Rev. Jackson have made mistakes along their journeys. Often times they are called “ambulance chasers,” however the way that I see it, is that almost every time there was no ambulance to chase, because no one cared until they showed up.  Without righteous leaders like Rev. Sharpton and Rev. Jackson, many of these horrific incidents in our nation’s history would never have received the attention that they deserved. And in many cases, would never have received justice for the grieving families and communities destroyed by such tragedies.  Justice denied anywhere diminishes justice everywhere. Words by a King who taught these two men in their early years.  Over the span of six decades since the assassination of their mentor, they have carried the torch towards a more compassionate, generous and tolerant America that seeks peace and justice to all those who live in this land.  They fight for the voiceless, the ones whose names we do not know, the communities whose shadow covers their identity, the Americans who deserve a better chance at dreaming like the rest of us. This is why they are my heroes and why they have not only uplifted black America, but have uplifted all of America.

As I boarded the airplane back to New York City, after spending two days in Sanford, I was reflecting on the appreciation I have for these two men and what they have done for the movement of justice for Trayvon and what they have done for my generation. I knew of the stereotypes and misconceptions many in White America have about them, and I heard them in abundance in the courtroom. But, I also knew that without these two men, our battle to perfect these United States of America may never be won. We need them, and when I say “we,” I mean white people. For our nation will never be united if justice is denied for any one of our beloved citizens. So, when an unarmed teenager is shot with a bullet through his heart, the heartbeat of our lady liberty stops until justice is served. Until then, we march on.  We march on.  We march on.  Thank you Rev. Sharpton and Rev. Jackson for always leading the march.

~Michael Skolnik

Michael Skolnik is the Editor-In-Chief of and the political director to Russell Simmons. Prior to this, Michael was an award-winning filmmaker. Follow him on twitter @MichaelSkolnik