Saving the next Trayvon Martin

Trayvon_martin_Jenice_Armstrong_6001
These youngsters had Trayvon Martin on their minds, but others (right) were focused yesterday on slain teen Tremaine Rogers.

JEMILLE EDWARDS is about the same age that Trayvon Martin was when he was killed last year by a neighborhood-watch volunteer in Florida.

Like black parents everywhere, Jemille's parents must be unnerved by George Zimmerman's not-guilty verdict and worried that on a dark, rainy night with a hoodie pulled low over his head, someone might take a look at Jemille and make an assumption similar to the one Zimmerman made about Trayvon.

And like Zimmerman, that person would be wrong as hell.

Jemille, a neatly dressed youngster who dreams of becoming a fashion designer, was one of about 50 young people from the Young Chances Foundation program who staged an impromptu demonstration in commemoration of Trayvon last week.

Instead of cooling off in the Vare Recreation Center's pool, the youngsters marched around the blisteringly hot Point Breeze neighborhood, carrying a huge "I am Trayvon Martin" banner and wearing yellow T-shirts that also said, "I am Trayvon Martin."

They left their playground and swimming pool, seeking answers. Their notion of justice had been shaken. Like Dayanna Billington, 15, a sophmore at Universal Audenried Charter High School, who frets about what happened "all the time," they wanted to know more.

"They were confused," explained Tyrique Glasgow, 29, who heads Young Chances. "They think, if you kill somebody, you go to jail. Everybody in their neighborhood [who kills] goes to jail."

Last week's demonstration was one of many nationwide, as thousands protested Zimmerman's acquittal and marched in solidarity with Trayvon. Beyonce and Jay Z were among the notables. President Obama told White House reporters on Friday, "Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago."

During their demonstration, the Point Breeze youngsters made pit stops at the 17th Police District and at the office of state Rep. Jordan Harris, who explained to them how a Florida jury could find Zimmerman not guilty. At one point, Harris had to take a visibly upset kid into his office to calm him down.

"I remember one of the young ladies said, 'I'm not afraid for myself, but I have two little brothers,' " Harris told me afterwards.

Back at Vare, I watched as the youngsters played inside the stiflingly hot rec center. I couldn't help but wish I had shown up bearing better answers to their questions.

Something better than explaining for the umpteenth time how Florida's self-defense law made it possible for the killer of an unarmed black Florida teenager to get off free. They'd already heard as much from the authority figures they'd talked to earlier.

They'd gotten answers.

Plenty of those.

What they didn't get was a whole lot by way of satisfaction. But, frankly, that's something a whole lot of us lack about now.


On Twitter: @JeniceArmstrong

Blog: ph.ly/HeyJen