There's no doubt that New York City is one of the most exciting cities in the world. One of its many perks include an endless schedule of thrilling, intellectual, artistic and down right fun activities. However, it is nice every blue moon to escape the hustle, bustle and unyielding energy of this grand metropolis to experience more subtle, pristine and conservative environments.
This past weekend a couple of friends and I traveled to Washington D.C. Nothing in particular encouraged us to purchase tickets for the Megabus and hike in the blistering New York heat from 6th to 12th avenue, dragging suitcases filled with adorable sun dresses and sky high stilletos for the upcoming girls' night. This led to a four-and-a-half-hour ride without central air conditioning. Literally, the bus ride felt like the summer I went to Egypt where instead of cool air, it was like a hair dryer was continuously blowing hot air across my face. Nonetheless, we arrived to the country's capital safely and, fortunately, an alumna of our university hooked us up with a deal on a room at the Sheraton Four Points--a hotel situated in a prime location where absolutely everything was within walking distance.
Our first night there was unexpectedly amazing. I find that to be a rule of thumb when going out; whenever I'm not expecting much from a night or have no clue what the night will entail, I usually have a pretty swell time. We ended up meeting one of the vice presidents at HP, who graciously bought us drinks all night. Did I mention we met The Weeknd? I really don't listen to his music that often, I find it very depressing and it sounds almost as if he is painfully whining, but it was cool to meet him in person.
Since it was my friends' first time visiting the capital, we ventured to the White House and national mall. The last time I visited the national mall was President Obama's first inauguration in 2009. Of course, this time the open grassy area wasn't filled with millions of people in the dead of winter bundled in layers upon layers of ultra thick socks, long johns, sweaters, gloves, jackets, scarves, coats and hats patiently waiting for hours with high hopes of possibly snagging a pea sized glimpse of the first African-American president of the United States. This time around the sun was beaming down on the open field making it so hot I felt like I was roasting alive. Even though I had seen most of the monuments scattered across the national mall in previous years, there was one new monument I had yet to lay my eyes on. A five-minute walk past the World War II memorial stands the monument dedicated to Martin Luther King Jr.
It was very profound for us to visit his monument on that particular day, because this past week there have been several protests sprouting up around the nation calling for justice for slain teenager Trayvon Martin. King said it best when he stated, "An injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." Now, minority parents don't just have to worry about their children being profiled by the police but also everyday citizens. Whether or not one believes that George Zimmeran profiled Martin at this point is irrelevant, because one thing is for sure: Martin had just as much right as Zimmerman to be where he was that night.
Knowing what Dr. King stood for and fought for during his time leading the Civil Rights movement placed a heavy burden on my heart that day. His main agenda focused on freedom and justice for all, and if Martin did not even have the freedom to walk in a neighborhood where his family lived or have his family receive justice for his tragic death then what is this country celebrating the late Dr. King and his efforts to change this nation for? Contrary to what many believe, this verdict doesn't just affect African-Americans, it affects everyone. As human beings we only have our most basic right, which is the right to live. And once that is stripped of you, what is the meaning of life if you can't live it freely?
People can go back and forth about the technicalities of the case; if reasonable doubt played a part or if Zimmerman's claim of self-defense was warranted. I honestly find it difficult to believe that Zimmerman "feared" for his life when he willingly left the confines of his car to follow Martin initiating an inevitable confrontation. There are so many holes in the man's story I could go on forever, but I digress. Me harping on the reasons why I believe this verdict should have been different is pointless. The jury has spoken. Zimmerman is a free man. So what's next?
The fight for justice is far from over. Maybe the Department of Justice will pursue a civil case against Zimmerman. Maybe not. Even if it was a likely outcome that shouldn't be the only egg in our basket. We must not forget that Martin's appalling case is only one of a million examples of injustices in America. It's time for us to do our civil duty and contest laws like Stand Your Ground, which encourages deadly force in most times completely avoidable situations. Though Americans are protected by the second amendment, it wouldn't hurt to explore regulations on gun legislation. Yes, Americans can legally carry guns in public with a license, but who is protecting those citizens who choose to remain unarmed in public places? Protection under the second amendment shouldn't trump one's innate right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
On our trek to Dr. King's monument, I was happy to see the announcement for the future opening of the National Museum of African-American History and Culture. Although this verdict does affect all Americans, Martin's case struck a chord deep within the hearts of all African-American mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers because this story is all too familiar. This isn't the first time America's judicial system has turned a blind eye to injustices within the African-American community. For centuries, African-Americans have been told that society does not place much worth--if any--on the lives of African-American youth. Martin shares the fate of Emmett Till, Micheal Donald, Amadou Diallo, Tim Stansbury, Sean Bell, Oscar Grant and countless others; some names more recognizable than others but the injustice all the same.
My hope is that this overdue national museum, along with a restructure of history lesson plans in American public schools that for too long have failed to properly teach the history, culture and extensive contributions of African-Americans, will provide a glimpse of the African-American reality to other races inciting them to join in our continued fight for freedom and justice for all regardless of race, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, economic or social class.
Aside from the bitter sweet spirit of D.C., my weekend mini vacation was short-lived but well-deserved. I was able to tell my main man President Obama what's up and curtsey for my aunty FLOTUS (not literally, but I'm sure they saw me waving from outside the gate through one of their several windows or hidden security cameras). I was delighted to board the Megabus back to the city with a lovely breeze of cool air flowing freely from the vents above me. Though, the bright lights and jarring sounds of the city greeted me with a harshness only New Yorkers can appreciate, a soothing calm came over me as I strolled down 7th avenue toward Herald's square in the midst of the concrete jungle. I was home.
Written by Morgan Grain, Florida A&M University, InStyle
Edited by Haley Goldberg, University of Michigan, Glamour