Locals decry violence, racism one year after Trayvon Martin's death

Feb. 27, 2013 @ 11:54 AM

Wearing hoodies and praying over candles, a half-dozen locals gathered at the Dreams Cafe and Gourmets Tuesday night to commemorate the one-year anniversary of Trayvon Martin's death and talk about race and violence in Sanford.

"I was a victim of senseless violence, but I survived," said Robert Fox, a 43-year-old Sanford man who made headlines in town this summer after being shot in the chest — as was Martin — while working as a DJ at a graduation party. "And now I feel the need to speak out to help other people avoid becoming victims of senseless violence, too."

At the heart of the Martin case is George Zimmerman, who is free on $1 million bond after pleading not guilty to second degree murder. Zimmerman claims he was acting in self-defense when he got out of his car and shot Martin, who was unarmed and carrying iced tea and a bag of Skittles — items that came to symbolize the case, along with hoodie sweatshirts, after Fox News host Geraldo Rivera said Martin was responsible for his own death because he wore a hoodie, calling it "thug wear."

With that in mind, the theme of the night — which was only one of many such gatherings around the nation — was to wear a hoodie and remember: "What I wear does not define who I am," said Bette Turner, the local organizer.

"Wearing a hoodie is a way to show solidarity and say, 'Look, I'm going to take a stand and not let this happen here,'" Turner, the executive director of the Lee County NAACP, said.

Ervin Fox, president of the Lee County NAACP and father to Robert Fox, spoke both as an activist and the father of a son who was nearly killed by a stray bullet that tore through both his lungs.

"It's tragic whether it's a child or an adult," he said, announcing plans to host a larger anti-violence event in the near future. Both he and Turner said that while racial violence hasn't been a big issue in Lee County in recent years, racism in other forms is still around.

"Racism is a problem, and we need to do something about it," Fox said. "... If you never speak about it, everybody thinks it's gone away."

Mia Marsh, who was at the event with her young son, said the Martin killing was sad because, as she said, the youth are the future.

"He could've been a doctor, a lawyer, the president," she said.