Trayvon Martin Verdict Calls For Spiritual Change

By Rev. Najuma Smith-Pollard
Special to the NNPA from the Los Angeles Sentinel

Dr. Najuma Smith-Pollard

Dr. Najuma Smith-Pollard 

‘I Am Rizpah’ Urges Constant, Relentless Demand for Justice

Like so many, I was deeply saddened that a young man, who was innocent of any wrong doing, had been murdered and the jury found his killer not guilty.

As a citizen, I have to respect the judicial process, but as an individual, I do not have to accept that this is ever okay. I will never accept this; especially when it is the lives of the most vulnerable in our community who suffer most, our youth.

I am as passionately disturbed about Caylee Anthony as I am Trayvon Martin. Not to mention what we see happening to young lives in other parts of our world, Chicago, the Congo, Sudan, India, and Syria to name a few; this sickness of devaluing young lives.

In the face of times like these, when justice is unjust, it ought to stir something in the human spirit; and our protest is the appropriate action! Some will protest in the marches. Others will put their protest to pin and paper.

And in this social media age, the protest will be Tweeted, Texted, PinInterested, LinkedN, Facebooked, Instagrammed, etc. Whatever the channel one chooses to express their protest, it is needed and necessary, and part of our spiritual call so change can come about.

The graveyards in our country are running over with the blood of young innocent lives, and their ‘wrong doing’ was simply being a minority, or poor, or female or a young minority male. Their blood cries out for someone to stand and seek justice for them, as they have been unjustly murdered. In addition, we must also positively protest for the living that are marginalized, abused, neglected and unfairly imprisoned.

In 2 Samuel 21:1-14, Rizpah’s sons and the sons of Merab are killed and legally lynched. Nevertheless, she doesn’t just accept the set of conditions, but remains by the tree fanning away the birds by day and the beasts by night.

Rizpah’s protest makes me think of Sabrina Fulton, who has spent the past 17 months fighting for truth and for her son. Her presence in court during most of the testimony sent a powerful message of peaceful protest to the tragic events that led to her son’s killing.

I know many people are #IamTrayvonMartin, and that is necessary. But what resonates with me is the example of relentless parents fighting against the injustice of their sons’ killing.  So, #IamSabrinaFulton, #IamTracyMartin, #IamRizpah, are determined and relentless to protest the devaluing of young life.

Additionally, Rizpah’s protest was communal. She not only fanned the lifeless bodies of her two sons, but the other five that hung. Protest is not a self-interest action, but it speaks out for others facing similar conditions. Some would say that this is ‘just’ one bad incident.

The fact is, the need for our peaceful, positive protest is related to the historical devaluing of young lives based on color, gender, economics and class. And everyone should be concerned with the communal problem.

Lastly, Rizpah’s protest was constant. She remains by the bodies fanning until something happens. I’m not sure if she had a plan as to how long she would sustain her protest. But the encouragement we do find in the text is that her consistency caught the attention of the King, who in turn gathers the remains of the sons and they are later vindicated in their burial.

It will be our constant pressure for change that will lead to change. It shall come to pass.


(Rev. Najuma Smith-Pollard is the pastor of Family Ministries at Christ Our Redeemer A.M.E. Church and Program Manager of the USC Cecil Murray Center for Civic Engagement)

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