Niagara Gazette

July 19, 2013

HAMILTON: Trayvon, Zimmerman & the sympathetic jury

By Ken Hamilton
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — Could Zimmerman have walked because people like you didn’t do your duty, but criticize others for doing theirs?

Some of you can ‘empathize’ with how Trayvon Martin’s parents must feel, but having lost my own 14-year old son to an assailant’s bullet, I more closely ‘know’ how they feel. And while President Obama suggested that if had a son, then his boy could have looked like Trayvon, mine did. They were even about the same size.

In reality, even though I was in the room at 3:15 in the morning awaiting my son’s birth, I was really his godfather, but he declared me as his real dad.

Unlike the racial disparity between Martin and his assailant George Zimmerman, my boy’s assailant was not only a so-called friend, but both of them were black, though my godson was actually a black Hispanic. But my son’s assailant is still serving time in prison for the 1991 shooting.

As it was with me, there will be some bitterness in the Martin family for some time to come. But like the waves that wash against the shore, and then evaporates under the warm summer’s sun, the shape of things change in time. Even the waves’ mist rises and then rains again as teardrops within the soul.

When my godson was shot, like Trayvon, he was deemed someplace where he should not have been. But in my boy’s case, it was because the school system, that was supposed to have been serving his best interests, would not take him back after he had served his time in a state boy’s facility for what his mother says was him being attacked by a physical education teacher and the boy got the best of him. 

I shudder to think what might have happened if that teacher had a gun.

Also, according to his mother, in two of the subjects that he was tested for remedial education at the state facility, the seventh-grader scored at the grade 12 level, and in a third, at grade 13.

“No wonder he was such trouble in school,” one might say. “He was bored to death.”

But, apparently, his school saw him as a black, Puerto Rican troublemaker and too often, in the apples and oranges classifications that some school systems categorize their students, nothing much was expected of him. Therefore, he went from bored to death to shot to death.

As said the songwriter, “It’s not what you take when you leave this world behind you; it’s what you leave behind you that counts.” What did Keane leave behind him? 

He left a godfather who dedicated himself to doing what he could to try to make sure that school systems don’t operate in a way that creates the consequences of my godson. That is why I worked so ardently with those who started the Niagara Charter School, and why I worked so hard for the Legends basketball courts and other such things. It was a way that I could find my lost godson in the persons of others.

So then, in your passion, what did Trayvon leave behind in you?

If it is bitterness, then it wasn’t Trayvon that left that. As the recently deceased Pastor Ruth preached, “If you want to know what’s in the soup, then just stir it up.” That bitterness was already in your soup, and you need to deal with it.

Trayvon should have inspired in you a need to make a positive contribution to reduce the events that took his life and others like him.

Remember that neither presidents nor any other publicly-elected person will potentially have a greater impact in your life than the person who wears that black robe. They have the final word in what, and in how long you will or will not be doing it, when you leave that courtroom. Juries are generally more powerful than are judges; they deemed George Zimmerman as innocent.

So when you are angry at a jury’s decision, think back to how you got out of jury duty, or why lifestyle choices exempted you from duty at all. In serving, you might not have only made a difference in someone else’s life, but you might have also set a difference into motion in the law that may one day save either your loved one or you.

While it made no difference in the trial of the young man who killed my boy, but like it could have made a difference in so many cases like Trayvon’s, and it could make a difference in your child’s.

Contact Ken Hamilton at