Friday, March 23, 2012

Litany for Survival

Contributed by Jessica Burden
And when we speak we are afraid
our words will not be heard
nor welcomed
but when we are silent
we are still afraid

So it is better to speak
we were never meant to survive

Poet Audre Lorde reminds us in “Litany for Survival”, that healing and justice can only have their way when we as citizens speak up for what is right.  By the end of this blog, I hope you decide to use your voice and speak out in the interest of our future.

About three weeks ago, seventeen year old Trayvon Martin was shot and killed while walking back to his dad's home.  Trayvon had just purchased a pack of skittles and an iced tea from a local establishment and was accosted by George Zimmerman, self-appointed neighborhood watch captain.  Just minutes before, Zimmerman phoned the Sanford, Fl police department identifying Trayvon as “suspicious.”  It was raining; Trayvon was wearing a hooded jacket, and was apparently walking too slowly for Zimmerman.  The police informed Zimmerman to stay away from Trayvon, but Zimmerman did not take heed to police order and decided to follow, confront and ultimately shoot Trayvon in the chest, killing him.

George Zimmerman is going about his daily life just like you and I.  He's yet to be arrested or charged, not even with manslaughter.  Zimmerman is claiming he shot Trayvon (as a first resort) in self-defense, and has been protected by Florida's “Shoot First” law.  The “Shoot First” law specifically states that “a person who is not engaged in an unlawful activity and who is attacked in where he or she has a right to be has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary to do so...”

It should never be condoned or excused to gun down an unarmed minor, regardless of race, gender, religious affiliation, political belief, or even because you claim to feel threatened or suspicious of his presence.

What about Trayvon's father, and family- what about his mother?  In The Black Woman's Health Book, Bridgett Davis speaks of an all too common theme in the Black experience:
            I believe that on some deeper level, black women are used to tragedy.  We expect it.  Death is not a stranger in our lives, to our worlds.  We've lost our fathers to hypertension and heart attacks, our brothers to frontline battles in American wars, our husbands and lovers to black-on-black crime or police brutality, and our sons to drug-laced streets or upstate prisons.  All this while grappling with the stress and burden of all that is black life in America: Babies born to babies, dehumanizing ghettos, inferior schools, low wages, on-the-job racism...the slow but steady death of our people.  We are just used to pain.

There is a Hebrew saying, “Lo ta'amod al dam re'acha, ani adonai,” which has been said to mean, “do not stand by while your neighbor's blood is shed.”  Let's not allow Trayvon's death and story fall by the wayside.  I implore you to take constructive action and speak out for Trayvon as well as the many stories like his that never even make the news. 

Note from the editor: Catalyst Miami envisions a just and equitable society in which all people are meaningfully engaged.


  1. What a beautifully wriiten piece... filled with insight and compassion... thank you for stating so eloquently what many feel in their heart.

  2. The litany was written by Audre Lorde and comes from her book, The Black Unicorn: Poems. Thanks for reading!

  3. That good writing! One way to say no to this type of aggression!!!