Lexingtonians gather for forum about Trayvon Martin

kward1@herald-leader.comJuly 16, 2013 

Scores of people turned out Tuesday night for a town hall-style forum on the case involving Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman — and what it means for Lexington.

"This meeting was organized with the hopes that we can build on the outcome" of the trial, said local poet Bianca Spriggs, who hosted the event. "We are not here to change your mind. We are here to learn how to better coexist with our neighbors."

On Saturday night, a jury acquitted Zimmerman in the killing of the 17-year-old Florida boy. Zimmerman claimed self-defense.

The event at the Carnegie Center for Literacy and Learning was aimed in part at providing information on Kentucky's laws as they relate to the case, and a panel of speakers discussed the state's Stand Your Ground law.

Rep. Kelly Flood, D-Lexington, said that "the law isn't working" and that gun laws need to be addressed. She said the National Rifle Association is responsible for pushing the laws through.

"America is turning vigilantes into law-abiding citizens one state at a time," she said. "This is a crime."

David Adams, a Lexington native who lives in Nicholasville, voiced a dissenting opinion.

"My biggest problem with the NRA is that they don't go far enough with protection of Second Amendment rights," he said.

He urged those in attendance to read the state's laws about self-defense.

Melynda Price, an associate professor of law at the University of Kentucky, said the Zimmerman case is "connected to the profound residential segregation patterns" in many communities.

"Where is a safe space for black children in this country?" she asked. "Where is there any ground for black children to stand and be safe?"

National Book Award winner Nikky Finney got a round of applause after reading a column by Eugene Robinson in the Washington Post.

"We've got to call the four-letter word, the nasty four-letter word ... race," she said. "This is about race.

"We have to bring that big word and put it in the center of the room" and figure out how not to "walk around it but walk to it."

Astarre Gudino told the group it's important for parents to talk to their children about Trayvon Martin in a way that does not teach them to be afraid.

"Fear evokes violence," she said. "We just need them to not live in fear but in awareness."

She said she tells her two sons that if someone looks at them strangely as they are walking down the street, "It is OK to continue to walk and even say hello."

Spriggs told the crowd that she also hoped the discussion would help inspire further action, a sentiment several speakers reiterated.

"It's not about the president's race. It's not about the governor's race. It starts right downtown," said Michael Johnson. "If you're not going to participate, you might as well not educate yourself."

DeBraun Thomas told the people they should focus on the future.

"When Emmett Till was killed, it sparked a revolution," he said. "So what does that make Trayvon Martin?

"Let's not let Trayvon's death be in vain."

Karla Ward: (859) 231-3314. Twitter: @HLpublicsafetyKarla Ward: (859) 231-3314. Twitter: @HLpublicsafety

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