Central Florida leftists insist something new is happening here since Trayvon Martin’s killing. In the era of Occupy and global resistance, small towns draped in Spanish moss are now home to budding activists raising their fists to demand justice for Trayvon.
I’m down here from Brooklyn on a long-planned speaking tour that I hastily shifted to talk about Winning Justice for Trayvon: Socialism and the Fight to End the New Jim Crow. My impression so far is that these local activists living amidst boarded-up strip malls and forests of foreclosure signs are onto something.
The multiracial protests and meetings here seem to indicate that perhaps a new civil rights movement is developing in a region where the Klan still holds public rallies and newspapers uncritically report racist tirades against Trayvon.
Where this will go from here I have no idea, but one thing is certain: There are Floridians who say they’re forever changed by this case, and some of them — to the horror of bigots — will cite this as their entry into a life of organized left-wing politics.
On Monday at the University of Florida’s flagship campus in Gainesville, more than 250 Black and white students marched together to the FBI building to demand the Feds take action to arrest Trayvon’s killer, George Zimmerman. That is not a large protest to folks in New York or Chicago, but in a deeply segregated town where Blacks literally live on the other side of the tracks, where activists passed a Klan rally of dozens along the road home afterward, a multiracial march of this size is a triumph.
The demand from students at the march for a new civil rights movement is a heartening sign. Seasoned activists insist this hasn’t happened in the past, despite an endless stream of outrages over the years.
On Wednesday in Melbourne, a beach town about 80 miles from Sanford where Trayvon was killed, a diverse crowd of 45 or so attended my meeting. The young people there, like young people everywhere nowadays, are scraping by on jobs at Radio Shack, sandwich shops and are moving back home with mom and dad, desperately hoping for something to change.
Several left the meeting with copies of The Meaning of Marxism, Sexuality and Socialism and The Communist Manifesto tucked under their arms, excited to join reading groups in coming weeks. They’re carpooling to Sanford on Saturday for the big NAACP march for Trayvon, excited to be part of history, but outraged by the latest character assassinations of Trayvon.
Last night in Gainesville after I spoke a crowd of students participated in the wide-ranging discussion about the roots 0f racism, comparisons to the sixties and how multiracial unity can be forged. Several young Black women wearing hoodies participated in an animated discussion, the campus NAACP rep grabbed a Socialist Worker, a young Black alum leafleted for a Million Hoodie March today. When a retired transgender activist who’d been a postal strike militant in 1970 denounced the divide and conquer tactics of the 1%, she was applauded.
One Cuban-African American student who’d read Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow was elated to find socialists on campus — finally a political home for a young woman whose Miami Beach youth was spent being ridiculed for expressing antiracist ideas. She’s joining the local carpool to Sanford on Saturday, too.
I’m off to Tampa tonight to speak at the University of South Florida and will be heading to Sanford on Saturday where I’ll Tweet from the protest (@SherryTalksBack) and file a report for Monday’s socialistworker.org.
Who knows where all this pent up anger and rage will eventually lead? Times like this we’re reminded that the system doesn’t just produce oppression, exploitation and division, it sparks resistance as well.
How long it will last, how deep it will sink roots, how much change it can win are open questions. But something’s happening here.
Below is a little Brooklyn love for Trayvon: