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Black Youth in the Crosshairs - Will We Make it Out Alive?

At the end of the chorus to No Church in the Wild by Kanye and Jay-Z, singer Frank Ocean asks “Will we make it out alive..?”  Several current events and realities that affect the lives of black teens make this question very much a reality for all of us.

This much is clear. On February 26th, 2012, a 17year old unarmed African-American boy was gunned down by George Zimmerman while he was on the way home to his family in Sanford, Florida.  What is also clear is that as we speak, George Zimmerman has not been charged or arrested and still has his gun permit and gun. These two facts have caused many of us to ask “What is the value of a Black teen’s life?”  

Too often deaths like this happen at the hands of people who claim to be working as official or unofficial “enforcers of the law.” My question is this - what “laws” should we conclude you are enforcing? Also, whose lives are being protected?  Are black peoples’ lives not worth protecting?  Are our deaths not valuable enough to even motivate the justice process? We don’t know all the details of the case. However, we also don’t know how the details would have ever come out if it wasn’t for the national protests and outcry.  In other words it was several community efforts that have forced the Sanford police department and other authorities to explain and revisit the bizarre handling of this case.

In the light of this tragedy, the death Trayvon Martin, and the controversy surrounding the handling of his murder, we at the SHIFTDemand would first and foremost like to show solidarity with his family, and with all those affected by his killing.  We know that nothing will replace his life but we hope that the family can find some small solace in the widespread calls for justice that his death inspired.

We also want to suggest that our community must come together to address the multiple threats to the lives of Black teens. If our youth survive environments that have been made violent and unsafe by years of poverty and neglect, they still face relentless assault on our health from fast food companies, soda companies and other corporations that see us as a vehicle for fast dollars.  I can’t help but notice the tragic irony of the fact that Trayvon died in possession of Arizona Ice tea and skittles. Or that Skittle sales have gone up as - for some reason - people buy skittles to commemorate his death. Those facts are of course no reason to place judgment on him. Rather, they are a symbol of the options that we become accustomed to and how they shape our habits. It’s a reminder of the fact that 50% of black teens over 15 years or older have poorly controlled blood sugar.

Let’s use the momentum in our communities right now to come together and call for justice on all fronts.

We were thinking about these things when we wrote SHIFT’s incredible new single by Zieme “Real Food For Thought” -

Take a listen and let us know what the lyrics to the song make YOU think about @


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