Hundreds of Houstonians gathered at Byrd Funeral Home in Third Ward recently to protest the George Zimmerman verdict.
They came from different sectors of the community but all echoed the same sentiment – the need for justice and unity. Activist Quanell X organized the local rally, which was one of many held across the country.
“When the verdict was read they did the African-American race a great injustice,” said protester Jared Harris. “That decision affected every single one of us.”
Rodney Byrd, director of Byrd Funeral Home, said young Black men must be protected from the George Zimmermans of the world and each other.
“Trayvon Martin is one of many Black boys killed every day,” Byrd said. “Every day in this country there are 125 African-American males who fall prey at the hands of another African- American male. We have to stop filling our Black funeral homes with our Black children. We cannot mandate justice and respect until we first start respecting ourselves.”
Minister Robert Muhammad agreed.
“We want to condemn this power system that has destroyed us, enslaved us, and continues to oppress us,” Muhammad said. “But at the same time we must address our own behavior.”
Muhammad called for African-Americans to become leaders in their communities and to not become complacent toward the prejudices against them.
“We can no longer allow other people to write our history,” Muhammad said.
“The value of a Black male life needs to amount to more than what it does now,” added attorney Robert Jones. “It is the cost of a nickel bullet. People think they can kill us and nothing happens. That is not the truth.”
The rally culminated with a march through the community beginning on Wheeler Street and ending on Texas State Highway 288.
Participants continued to chant “no justice, no peace” as they walked behind a hearse and empty casket that symbolized the bodies of Trayvon and countless other Black males who lost their lives to violence.
“Our kids are dying,” said one march participant. “We have to stand up.”
The above article and pictures were published in Volume 82, Number 38 (July 18, 2013) of the Defender newspaper.