Philadelphia resident Khalid Moffitt, 37, rose from being a prisoner and gunshot victim to an author, poet and activist. The Philadelphia NAACP branch board member spoke at Thursday night’s candlelight vigil for Trayvon Martin in Center City.
He asked the more than 200 activists gathered in LOVE Park, “If I, [a black man,] am the one that killed Trayvon Martin, would there be a march?”
Before Moffitt finished his statement, many were angrily shaking their heads,
“Nope. Nope. Nope.”
As the crowd quieted, Moffitt quietly said, “We got to change our mindset.”
This sentiment strongly reverberated Thursday night as Philadelphia Mayor and Wharton 1979 graduate Michael Nutter, city councilmen, dozens of adults and children and a few members of the Penn community acted as activists in their own right. They all supported the need to drastically reframe the social inequality narrative both nationally and locally.
Mayor Nutter unexpectedly joined the rally midway through. He emphasized to the crowd that Philadelphia residents need to think not only about what’s happening in Florida, but also to focus on “what’s happening right around the corner.”
“How is it possible that thousands of black men, thousands of black people, [are] killed every year and no one says a word?” the mayor asked.
He continued, “If the terrorists killed 200 black men last year, just in this city, there would be an FBI and Justice Department investigation trying to figure out what had happened.”
“But somehow, someway, if it’s just day to day, if it’s just those folks, if it’s just bad people doing other things to other folks, if it’s not in my neighborhood, then somehow it just goes, not even below the radar screen. It doesn’t register on the radar screen.”
As the mayor left the microphone, members of the audience screamed out for the mayor to keep his word at City Hall.
For Penn graduate and adjunct professor Chad Dion Lassiter, he believes that while Martin’s death cannot be forgotten, we must learn how to be “socially conscious, socially responsible and socially active.”
And although the shooting of Trayvon Martin sparked national outrage, the tragedy also catalyzed a call-to-action. To respond to this call, Lassiter said we must be proactive, not reactive. While advantageous, events like the Hoodie March can err on the side of reactive at times, he said, as opposed to the proactive. He said the energy from these marches must be turned into tangible steps of action.
Offering an example of one way Penn students can engage in the redirection of this local, and more broad national discourse, Lassiter suggested students recognize and actualize the Penn Compact — Penn President Amy Gutmann’s vision for the University.
“As a university, we can continue to leverage our intellectual property and our passion for humanity in a way where wherever injustice is, we can bring about justice and equality.”
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