BROOKLYN, NY, April 6 — “Who are we? Trayvon!” was chanted repeatedly by students and teachers picketing the John Jay campus here protesting the racist murder of black teenager Trayvon Martin. This was among the many actions angry high school students and teachers organized as news of his death reached the campus. As many of the black and Latino students have been targets of previous racist attacks, we were able to sympathize with Trayvon’s parents. No one could defend killer Zimmerman as it became clear that racism was a major cause of this murder.
The student government, the debate team and the school newspaper confronted racism, with teachers conducting lessons on the case; students making and distributing posters throughout the campus’s four schools; announcements were made in classes and posted on Facebook calling on students to a picket line outside the school.
Some principals were supportive but others opposed this action, threatening their students by holding assemblies warning them about participating. One black principal released her students early out of fear.
The original idea was to stand outside of the school and lock hands in Trayvon’s memory. But the protest flowed naturally from previous picket lines protesting the segregation involving the new school the Department of Education introduced into our building (see 2011 CHALLENGES). Racist attacks created by the capitalist system are affecting our lives every day so we must stand together and fight the divisions it heaped upon us and on the working class.
Even though this was a half day, students showed commitment by coming to school, creating posters and encouraging their peers to join the protest. This united the school community which was fighting not only for justice in Trayvon’s case, but against racism in general as well.
When we chanted back and forth in front of the school, the cops surrounded us, but the students didn’t back down, making it clear what we think of their racist tactics. Students wore black hoodies in memory of Trayvon, while knowing that Trayvon is not the only victim of racism in the class struggle. The action caught the attention of the neighborhood. Some encouraged and congratulated us for our courage while others crossed the street to avoid us.
We’re aware that such racist attacks could happen to any of us; we all go to a school in a predominately white, middle-class, neighborhood. However, the more we fight such racist attacks the more we’re able to open people’s eyes and show them how these attacks are caused by the system we all must fight against.
But this will not stop here. We’re continuing to encourage our classmates to come to rallies and protest the racism in all the class struggles facing us every day. Attending the May Day march on April 28 is a great way to continue this fight.