Wearing hooded sweatshirts similar to the one that Trayvon Martin wore on the night he was killed, many preachers and worshippers echoed calls for justice Sunday in the shooting death of an unarmed black teenager in Florida last month.
The one-month anniversary of Martin’s death is today. He was shot while wearing a “hoodie” as he walked home on a rainy night in a gated community. The neighborhood watch volunteer who shot him, 28-year-old George Zimmerman, is the son of a white father and Hispanic mother, and the demands to charge him in Martin’s slaying have grown ever louder. He had called police to report the hooded figure as suspicious; the 17-year-old Martin was carrying a bag of Skittles and a can of iced tea, talking to his girlfriend on his cellphone.
In African-American and other religious centers from Florida to Atlanta, New York and Chicago, messages from pulpits couldn’t help but touch on a seemingly avoidable tragedy that continues to be rife with more questions than answers. But while the call continued for the arrest of Zimmerman, there were also pleas to use the incident to spark a larger movement.
“How do we turn pain into power?” the Rev. Jesse Jackson asked a standing-room only congregation of hundreds while preaching at Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church in Eatonville, Fla., about 20 miles from the site of the Sanford shooting. “How do we go from a moment to a movement that curries favor?”
Jackson preached a sermon entitled “The Substance of Things Hoped For.” He called for Martin’s “martyr” death to be used as an opportunity to revive the Civil Rights Commission and draw attention to long-standing issues. Very young children and teens sat in the choir behind him.
“The blood of the innocent has power,” Jackson said to shouts of “Amen” and loud clapping.
Jackson invoked the names of Emmett Till, the 14-year-old boy bludgeoned and shot to death in Mississippi in 1955 for supposedly whistling at a white woman, and slain civil rights figures Medgar Evans and Martin Luther King, Jr.