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March 29, 2012

Social Justice at MSASS: We Are Trayvon!

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It started out as a simple idea for a cause, then grew from one friend, to one e-mail, than a viral outpouring on Facebook and Twitter.

Members of the Case Western Reserve community and the Mandel School for Applied Social Sciences gathered on the steps of MSASS to show support for Trayvon Martin, the 17-year-old youth who was shot and killed for walking through a Sanford, Fla., neighborhood. His death has sparked a national debate on race, and activists everywhere are donning hoodies to protest the killing of the Florida teenager.

Here in Cleveland, students and community members streamed onto the steps of MSASS before 1 p.m. Thursday to wear hoodies and raise fists in support of the Martin family. The event's main organizer, Donte Gibbs, explained why he wanted the event to take place on campus. He currently serves as president of the Black Student Association and will be graduating with an MSSA from MSASS in May.

"When I first heard about this story, I immediately sat in awe as I read reports and watched clips on the Internet about the incident," he said. "I was outraged that young Trayvon was shot and killed, but even more disturbed that his killer, George Zimmerman, is still free ... FREE! Today marks over a month since Trayvon's death."

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MSASS student Ramses Clements also questioned why legislators and law enforcement officials can't do more to pursue justice. Clements is a second-year MSSA student who is specializing in community social development, policy and legislative work.

"Today was an event I saw as 'WE', he said. "It was not about just one child whose life is taken away, or one family that was hurt from the outcome, but rather all people of all races, especially the African American community."

"I have encountered being stereotyped and addressed like this multiple times, and I can say I am sure other young black men have as well," Clements added. "When you have to wake up and determine how to dress -- not just on the idea of what you want to wear but how society will judge you -- is difficult and frustrating. Again, this is a "WE" movement, and without everyone seeing that this can happen to them, one voice will not be heard."

Clements and dozens of other students signed a banner to give to the Martin family. After brief remarks from Gibbs, the group was joined by representatives from the Cleveland NAACP and the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio Foundation.

"The students at MSASS are already leaders in working for social change and justice," said ACLU Executive Director Christine Link. "That they stood together with faculty, black and white, and with members of the community on this critical issue, inspires all of us working for fairness and equality in the justice system."

Related Links:

Photo Album
Video, Donte Gibbs
Video, ACLU and NAACP
Video, Remembering Trayvon