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Students rally to discuss killing of Florida teen

Submitted by Chelsey McNiel on April 20, 2012 – 6:43 am2 Comments
Students and AAMI members discuss their perspectives on the death of Florida teen Trayvon Martin. Photo by Chelsey McNiel

Students and AAMI members discuss their perspectives on the death of Florida teen Trayvon Martin. Photo by Chelsey McNiel

The African-African Male Initiative held an open rally Thursday where about 35 students shared their perspectives surrounding the controversial death of Florida teen Trayvon Martin.

“We wanted to invite other students into a healthy discussion and hear a range of views,” AAMI Team Coordinator Harvell Howard said.

The AAMI is a student success program developed to address the concern over low retention rates held by African-American males, according to UALR’s website. The program empowers, supports and assists African-American male students through their college career and aims to raise graduation rates through peer and administrative mentorship as well as academic and personal success workshops.

Freshman AAMI members, Roderick Henderson, mass communication major, and Alex McDonald, engineering major, helped organize and gather information for the rally.

George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer fatally shot Martin, who was walking home from buying ice tea and skittles at a local 7-Eleven Feb. 26. A nationwide debate over racial profiling was provoked. Zimmerman was later arrested and charged with second-degree murder.

Henderson and McDonald said the crowd of students made good points with strong opinions. However, most attendees agreed the legal process should be allowed to work itself out without the quick judgments of the news media.

“The media got a hold of the situation too soon,” said senior Spanish and criminal justice major Tynesha Ivory. “They made it what they wanted the public to see. We don’t have all the facts as a society to make an educated decision.”

Henderson provided another perspective.

“We shouldn’t look at it as racism,” he said. “We should ask what is the classification, level or status as a black male in America. [Zimmerman] probably wouldn’t have done the same to a black female.”

According to Andrea Fulton, junior human resource major, Harvell suggested ways African-American males could improve stereotypes surrounding their race. He addressed image, such as dressing for success and behavioral issues like fighting.

Ivory said she was surprised to see a calm discussion about the Martin case take place.

“We are changing as a people and classes like AAMI will help mold them into successful young men,” she said.

AAMI also handed out lanyards with Martin’s picture attached for students to wear in support.

“The rally opened up a lot of views,” McDonald said. “It’s out in the public eye that [racial] things are still happening, but just not on a large scale. I am happy people came out to support the cause and hope good things come from it.”