Yesterday I walked past a sign that read simply “Trayvon Martin” and now I’m wondering what it means.
My neighborhood in DC is pretty diverse. There’s a storefront church, a “food” & liquor or a hipster version of “The Max” on every corner.
There are renovated condos, crack dens and converted schools. There’s a new yoga studio next to the “market” with no fresh food and a black hair salon rubbing up against a bar that sells microbrewed beer. There’s this one rowhouse populated by a rotating gang of little old ladies that has an everlasting plastic folder jammed with printouts of Bible verses with a little note that says, “take one.” I never have.
Point is there’s a lot going on. As my best friend who took French instead of Spanish would say it’s “an interesting melange.” All sorts of folks are crammed together in a three block radius, trying not to chafe against various strains of socio-economic, class and racial divides.
When Trayvon Martin’s killer, George Zimmerman, was judged not guilty I was gripped with a numbness. My boyfriend, about 7 of my sorority sisters who were visiting from out of town and I all stood in front of my television stunned silent. The shouting, of course, began by the next deafening heartbeat. What? Why? How could they? And where to now? Earlier that day my neighbor’s twelve-year-old son–who’s just inches away from being as tall as Trayvon–stopped by for a popsicle and $5 to walk my dog, Miles.
Juxtaposing his sweetness with the reality of the moment was too much for me. The privelege of childhood for too many is just that–a privelege. The security of belonging to a place and not constantly being profiled as an outsider is a comfort too many don’t know.
But the next morning the streets, my streets that now seemed like someone else’s, weren’t burning. There wasn’t a tangible tension in the air. People weren’t treating each other any differently than they had before the wool was yanked from so many folks’ eyes. Mine, for one, were wide open–taking in the imperfect but far beyond tolerant scenes of a gentrifying neighborhood. And that’s when I saw it.
The name printed in all capital letters on a white 8 x 11 sheet of paper, then carefully slid into a plastic sleeve and attached to someone front gate. Who owned that home would have to see that name in bold every time they came home. Whomever walked by that door with their eyes open would see it. TRAYVON MARTIN.
I don’t know who lives behind that door. I don’t know if they’re black, white, old, young, married, single gay or straight. I don’t know if they’re DC natives (Washingtonians we call them) or a transplant like most so many of the people who live here. All I know is that I felt like I knew that person, that they were my neighbor and I was proud of that.