I am Trayvon Martin… and his Father

Having the goal of running in Rep. Wheatley’s Fall 5K, I was jogging recently with my brother and daughter in a wealthy, what I imagine is an almost entirely white enclave in Rehoboth Beach, MD (generously given this space by friends of the family) and as vans and pick up trucks with white men passed and white teenage bTrayvon and Dadoys walked their dogs, I had thoughts of Trayvon Martin. I imagined what Trayvon Martin experienced directly and violently: self-defined insiders noting “rare to see a Black person around here. I wonder how they got here and what they are doing here?” However, having gone to St. Andrew’s high school in Bethesda, MD, church in upper Northwest Washington D.C., working downtown… this experience of feeling and then imagining the racism of white people & communities is not new to me. In fact, the alienating nature of being in predominantly white settings was one of the reasons I came to the Hill District almost twenty years ago. A popular phase I hear these days is “this is really more about class than race”, and while class deserves much more attention than it gets, particularly from middle class African Americans, the pervasive problem of white supremacy as an overarching American ideology is almost never named as the public health problem that it is for African Americans.

It is this issue of ubiquitous American and Pittsburgh racism that needs even greater attention as we discuss the Lower Hill District and it’s future. One of the main reasons we need see the Greater Hill District Master Plan and its principles against displacement and “Building on the African American Cultural Legacy” brought to life in the Lower Hill District in the form of multi-class housing, African American businesses, street names, Walter Hood’s “Curtain Call”, and “Way Finding” plaques is to remind us all of the role of African Americans in the history, present and future of the Lower Hill. To imagine a future where we can expect physical, psychological and social safety, security and progress for African American people and all people. Today, I envision a place where my children, or their children, or other Black boys and girls are assumed insiders, residents, people who belong in the Lower Hill District, people who are never be questioned as to their place. I am Trayvon Martin and his father. Justice for Trayvon Martin and his family and all of us. Light, Peace and Progress to his spirit.

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