No, the Institute of the Black World 21st Century (IBW), multitudes of people of African descent and people of conscience/goodwill have not forgotten about the tragedy and travesty of the murder of Trayvon Martin. There is a deep seated feeling of injustice and lack of closure as the Justice Department has yet to render a decision whether to pursue civil rights violations in this case (a course which is highly unlikely). And, the “Stand Your Ground Law” which provided George Zimmerman the pretext to profile and ultimately murder Trayvon Martin with impunity is still in place. Despite a courageous sit-in by the youthful “Dream Defenders” and voluminous protests from numerous civil rights organizations, faith leaders and politicians, a Committee of the Florida Legislature recently refused to recommend rescinding or changing the law. Representative Marti Coley (R) seemed to capture the sentiments of the Republican who sponsored the law when he said; “Today, our state is a safer place and has the lowest crime rate in 42 years … Florida’s Stand Your Ground law is solid. It’s good and should not be changed.”
These words should end the illusion that moral appeal and protests that do not inflict pain on the State of Florida will result in a change in this insidious law; a statute, like the ones passed in other states with the financial support of the ultra-conservative Koch Brothers, that is based on contrived fear of the “scourge” of the “dangerous Black man.” No amount of painful testimonies about the horrific consequences of this law on Black families will prick the conscience or shame Republicans and some Democrats in the Legislature into changing this law. It is doing exactly what it was intended to do, protect White people from “dangerous” Black people!
After Stevie Wonder’s courageous stance, declaring he will not perform in Florida again until the Stand Your Ground Law is “abolished,” I am dismayed that none of our major civil rights leadership has embraced the Boycott Florida Economics Sanctions Campaign. Prominent artists/entertainers like Jay-Z and Kanye West who initially signaled they would support the Boycott have since moon walked back from that stance. In Kanye’s case it may be understandable since he is currently peddling merchandise with the Confederate Battle Flag!
We in IBW have not backed away from our conviction that Black people must have the audacity, commitment, determination and discipline to use Black consumer power to inflict the kind of economic pain that will force the powers that be in Florida to find a way to retreat from their intransigent posture. But, with the seeming reluctance of our civil rights leaders to endorse and actively support the campaign and some prominent artists/entertainers equivocating or buck dancing (artists like the O’ Jays and Stephanie Mills have heeded Stevie Wonder’s call), it is increasingly clear that the Economic Sanctions Campaign must be fueled from the bottom up by scores of lesser known, constituency based organizations and millions of righteously outraged Black people and our allies.
We cannot allow the murder of Trayvon Martin to be just another tragic death of a Black man, another crime against the race that is simply allowed to go unpunished after the initial emotional catharsis. This is exactly what the powers that be in Florida expected – that there would be an initial outcry that would gradually recede and it would be “business as usual” as Black people submerged their collective egos, tucked their tails between their legs and resumed spending billions of dollars bolstering the economy of Florida.
There is no more opportune moment than the “Xmas” season (the commercialized, corrupted, capitalist version of Christmas) for Black people to relight the fires of resistance and rebellion as it relates to the tragedy and travesty in the callous murder of Trayvon Martin and the myriad indignities that continue to be heaped upon us across this nation. These indignities persist largely because we have lost the will to engage in sustained, unrelenting “struggle” to promote and defend our collective dignity, self-respect, interests and aspirations “by any means necessary.” The corporate/capitalist retail establishment is waiting with baited breath for consumers to commence the customary holiday shopping charge to accumulate sufficient sales to “break into the black” for the year.
Accordingly, we call upon freedom fighters to seize the season to recommit to the Justice for Trayvon Martin Economic Sanctions/Boycott Florida Campaign – No Conferences/Conventions, No Vacations, No Golf Tournaments, No Amusement Parks, No Florida Orange Juice. Others groups have selected other items to boycott, and we say “let a thousand flowers bloom.” IBW’s list is based on the view that cutting off tourist dollars that Black organizations and individuals spend in the state every year will have the greatest impact. And, whether you had planned to travel to Florida or not, everyone can stop consuming Florida orange juice.
Our economic sanctions campaign should not be stealth. In the words of Congressman and civil rights icon, John Lewis, we need to “make some noise.” As organizations or individuals, we should let Governor Rick Scott know that we are boycotting Florida -- Call 850.488.7146 to announce that a cancellation of a reservation or declare that you won’t be coming to Florida until the Stand Your Ground Law is “abolished.” It’s too dangerous. You can also go to the web site www.flgov.com/contact-gov-scott/ and send him an email message! For further instructions on the campaign visit the web site www.ibw21.org. Remember Trayvon Martin – inflict some pain on Florida!
Dr. Ron Daniels is President of the Institute of the Black World 21st Century and Distinguished Lecturer at York College City University of New York. His articles and essays also appear on the IBW website www.ibw21.org and www.northstarnews.com.