Philly student activists fight to pass Trayvon’s Law

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

by Mark McHugh

Youth United for Change members have been working hard this summer organizing community members in the fight for public education. But last weekend they took a stand alongside members of the Florida activist group Dream Defenders to protest the controversial verdict in the George Zimmerman trial and fight for passage of the Trayvon Martin Act, also known as “Trayvon’s Law.”

Twenty-five YUC members took part in a sit-in with the Dream Defenders, an organization with seven chapters throughout Florida that confronts systemic inequalities among black and brown youth. Together, the group of youth activists sat inside the state Capitol building in Tallahassee for three consecutive days to call for Gov. Rick Scott and the state legislature to enact the Trayvon Martin Act, which would repeal the Stand Your Ground law, ban racial profiling, and end the school-to-prison pipeline.

Zimmerman, a neighborhood watchman, was acquitted of second-degree murder and manslaughter charges for the killing of the unarmed, 17-year-old Martin.

Though YUC typically advocates on issues that are directly specific to public education, YUC member and Philadelphia High School for Girls senior Christa Rivers said members don’t hesitate to also make their voices heard concerning politically and socially relevant topics.

“We were all really upset at the verdict,” said Rivers.

Rivers added that the circumstances and outcome of the case set the stage for the criminalization of kids and creates a pipeline that “sets students up for the prison system.”

Rivers said that there is no evidence that Trayvon’s Law will be passed or even addressed by the state legislature, but that any support will help the cause in fighting for justice for all black and brown youth.

“Our voices will be heard, at least from the people that were there,” she said.

Mark McHugh is an intern at the Notebook.