The ceremony occurred at Martin Luther King Park unofficially in conjunction with Saturday’s Justice for Trayvon 100-city vigil movement spearheaded by the Rev. Al Sharpton.
“Oberlin needed a voice in the 100 City Vigil,” said organizer Annesse Oliver-Wyman, who had one day to put the event together. “The community needed to express itself.”
The nationwide vigils organized by Sharpton’s National Action Network are working to pushfor possible civil rights charges against George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch coordinator who shot and killed Martin in Stanford, Fla., according to the network’s website.
In concert with the other vigils, the Oberlin ceremony began at noon with a turnout of approximately 60 people. The speaker list included Oberlin College retired professor Booker Peek, community activist Ken Stanley, Oberlin native and Ohio State University professor Malcom Cash and Oberlin’s Peace Community Church minister Steve Hammond.
Each brought insight on how to memorialize Martin and move forward. They all spoke about uniting as a community to combat racism in America before violence and death occur.
“We as humans have responsibility to make this world a better place,” said Peek. “Help this world see what is right and just and humane for all.”
Stanley reviewed House Bill 203, introduced to the General Assembly on July 11, which gives legal validity to individuals who have a license that allows them to conceal a handgun on their person in Ohio, regardless of the state that issued the license and expands the right to use that gun in self-defense anywhere people are lawfully allowed.
“The law says if you find a young black man scary, shoot him,” said Stanley in response to the acquittal of Zimmerman in Martin’s case.
Stanley expressed concern regarding HB 203’s impact on the county.
Although the speakers did not mention disagreeing with the jury’s verdict, attendees cited discontent with the decision as reason to come to the vigil.
“I’m out here because of the situation,” one man said. “Zimmerman should not have gotten out scot-free.”
Despite their frustration with the outcome and sadness for Martin and his family, people left re-energized to effect change. Several mentioned desires to protect their children’s and grandchildren’s futures and to inspire them to take action.