Since Trayvon Martin’s murder on February 26th, an intense social media campaign over racial injustice, gun laws, and vigilantism has taken the internet by storm. The African-American 17 year old was shot and killed by George Zimmerman, captain of Martin’s gated community neighborhood watch. Zimmerman thought the hoodie-wearing teenager looked suspicious and claims he acted in self-defense. In fact, Martin was only holding a can of iced tea and had a bag of Skittles candy in his pockets. Zimmerman has not been arrested.
Martin’s name has been mentioned in tweets over 600,000 times and many Facebook statuses with messages such as “I am Trayvon Martin” or “I am wearing a hood-Do I look suspicious?” have been posted in outrage. Also, an online petition started by Martin’s parents has already received over 1.2 million signatures. The national media campaign sparked by the tragedy has become even more intriguing because of the fact that it has led to a lot of local community efforts to fight racial profiling.
A great example of this effort can be found right in New Haven. The Connecticut African American Emancipation Committee [CAAEC], the Yale NAACP, My Brother’s Keeper (a grassroots social justice group in New Haven), and the Black Student Alliance at Yale (BSAY) have partnered together to organize an event called “Hoodies Up New Haven,” a march in support of Alvin Penn Act, the recently introduced racial profiling measure in the Connecticut legislature that requires the police to collect data from traffic stops and report them to the state.
What is even more interesting is the way the old media and the new media are effectively helping to promote the March 31st community event. The Yale Black Student Alliance is using both a Facebook and Twitter to help promote the event.
According to BSAY President Joshua Penny,
“The thing with Trayvon Martin is that this is particularly relevant to young people and we’re trying to reach them through the mediums that young people use. We know that if we want New Haven high school-ers to come out, we have to put this up on Facebook. To help reach an older demographic, the event will also be covered by Fox Hartford, who actually tweeted us to let us know that they would be in attendance.”
Some argue that this individual rally may not garner as much attention as the national Trayvon Martian media campaign has as a whole. However, what is so amazing is that while this is a local effort, social media enables the New Haven community to have the potential to reach many other people. Social media has been key to making this tragedy a national event. The response to the national attention has also given the Travyon Martin case a local presence in New Haven.
This is because the internet is a world-wide space that every outlet from the local media to the national media can use. A friend in Olympia Fields, Illinois could see the Hoodies Up New Haven event on Facebook and be inspired to do something similar. Though the reach of these New Haven groups’ efforts may initially noticed by a smaller group of people, and having a presence on the internet in general still gives New Haven efforts the capacity to reach people all over the world.