Little did anyone realize that the night of Feb. 26, 2012 would spark a social revolution not seen since the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.
That’s the night George Zimmerman fatally shot 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida.
Martin, an African-American high school student, was unarmed when Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch coordinator of white and Hispanic heritage, shot him after a brief scuffle.
Zimmerman claimed he was acting in self-defense when he shot Martin. Zimmerman would go onto be acquitted of murder less than a year later.
But since Martin’s death, there have been other unarmed black men whose lives ended after altercations with police.
Most notably 43-year-old Eric Garner in New York City in July 2014; 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri just a month later; and the October 2014 death of Laquan McDonald by Chicago Police Officer Jason Van Dyke, who is now charged with murder.
These deaths sparked and have sustained the movement on Twitter known as #BlackLivesMatter.
“The Black Lives Matters movement is probably one of these most important grassroots social and political movements of the past 10 years,” said Dr. Kevin Considine, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Calumet College of St. Joseph. “It started after the murder of Trayvon Martin by a neighborhood watchman for having a bag of Skittles in his hand. This started a new wave of consciousness rising about law enforcement violence against people of color and especially young black men.”
But the Black Lives Matter movement isn’t without controversy. Some on social media have responded with “All Lives Matter” or “Police Lives Matter.” There’s others who have said on social media or TV talk shows that the Black Lives Matter movement ignores violence in African-American neighborhoods in Chicago, Gary and other urban centers.
Beyond drawing attention to the deaths of unarmed black men, Black Lives Matter is now involved in political campaigns, from helping to defeat Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez to protesting at the presidential rallies of Donald Trump, Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton.
Members have also protested loudly about cuts to higher education in the State of Illinois ongoing budget dispute. There is also a chapter in Northwest Indiana that have met with Gary Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson and Gary Police Chief Larry McKinley about white Gary police allegedly harassing or targeting black Gary residents.
But is there an element of God in the Black Lives Matter movement? Yes says Dr. Considine.
“God’s presence can be found in the black lives matter movement in some way, shape or form,” Dr. Considine says. “There are great theologians who say, ‘Wherever there’s a movement for greater justice, God’s spirit is somehow involved in that movement.”
To make his point further, Dr. Considine will lead a discussion about God’s Presence in the Black Lives Matter Movement” during Humanities Festival at CCSJ this week.
Dr. Considine has invited several CCSJ students, including members of the Black Student Union, to participate in the discussion.
“I’m hoping to start a dialogue on campus about it so people can voice their various perspectives,” Dr. Considine says.
Dr. Considine says he knows things can could get heated over this topic but he wants students and others in attendance “to be honest, be provocative, get their blood boiling a little but try to understand what the movement is and what it means to people.”
The discussion, God’s Presence in the #BlackLivesMatter Movement” begins at 12:15 p.m. in Room 200 at CCSJ on Tuesday, April 5, 2016.
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