RED BANK — The shooting of unarmed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin by a neighborhood watch volunteer in Sanford, Fla. Feb. 26 has sparked a national debate.
What really happened between the two men in Sanford is still not known.
But the impact of the incident is being felt around the nation and in the two rivers.
This Monday, a gathering in memory of Martin will take place
Billed as a “Silent and Peaceful Stand for Trayvon Martin,” the event is being organized by Team I.M.P.A.C.T., a group that mentors young black men and boys.
The purpose of the gathering, its organizers say, is to call attention to the already high profile incident, and to focus similar situations that place young African-Americans at risk.
“It’s not a rally, it’s not a march,” the organization’s founder, Darnell Lewis, said on Wednesday. “It’s a stand of silence and peace for that particular hour, in solidarity,” with the Martin family.
The gathering is scheduled for Monday from 6:30-7:30 p.m. on the corner of Shrewsbury Avenue and Drs. James Parker Boulevard. It will be “a peaceful assembly,” Lewis said.
Lewis contacted some area churches and community organizations to help spread the word about the event. He and his organization applied to borough police and obtained the required permit to allow the vigil to go forward. Lewis said he told police he would expect between 100-500 people to attend.
The intent, Lewis explained, is for “showing that we stand up for our youth, and in particular our black children.”
The incident, as widely reported, involved the Feb. 26 shooting and killing of Martin, an African American teenager, by George Zimmerman, who was a volunteer for a neighborhood community watch group. It has been reported that Martin was unarmed and that Zimmerman claims to have shot Martin in self-defense.
The shooting has sparked outrage and concern, especially in black communities, with some alleging that Martin was shot because of his race and attire, including wearing a hooded sweatshirt, or “hoodie,” which, although worn by people of all ages and races, some associate with criminals.
Lewis is calling on those planning to his assembly to wear hoodies in a show of support.
Lewis, 34, who is black, was born and raised in Red Bank, He is a graduate of Red Bank Regional High School, Little Silver and attended Delaware State University on a football scholarship. Following his college graduation,he worked for not-for-profit organizations.
He recently moved back to Red Bank after living and working in Wilmington, Delaware for the past eight years.
And as a young man of color, he said, he knows the sting of being stereotyped for his race and clothing.
“I know it is constantly on your mind as a young black male in America,” he said.
“When I dress down, that’s what I wear,” he said, referring to a hooded sweatshirt. He feels many people “tend to jump the gun and judge a book by its cover.”
He recalled instances in college, “where, we’re outside, just hanging around the car, maybe an officer pulls up and kind of assumes,” he said without completing the sentence.
“Sometimes in that whole process, you feel yourself scared or feeling threatened for something you know you didn’t do,” he said.
He characterized himself as “A young man who has come through life, made some mistakes, made some good choices, made some bad choices.
“But I’ve learned from doing,” he said.
“For me it’s even more personal. I am Trayvon Martin,” he said.
The purpose of his organization is to work with youth, especially boys and young men, and help to steer them from bad choices by offering positive role models. And if they make mistakes, “help them to understand their mistakes and learn from (them) and how to move on from them.”