Million Hoodies Candlelight Vigil brings attention to racism

Click the photo to see more from the Trayvon Martin vigil.

Candles lit the night in Union Square as demonstrators gathered to commemorate Trayvon Martin’s death and prove that one year later his case has not been forgotten.

Dubbed the Million Hoodies Candlelight Vigil, the demonstration reignited protests against racial profiling that surfaced in Feb. 26 of last year when Trayvon Martin, a black teenager walking home at night, was shot and killed in Sanford, Fla.

Martin’s parents Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin spoke at the event, and a moment of silence was held for Trayvon at 7:16 p.m., mirroring the approximate time of the shooting last year. The vigil also featured a celebrity speaker, Jamie Foxx, and politicians such as District 45 Councilman Jumaane Williams.

“In the midst of all of the swirling, and all the talking points and people standing on different sides, she stood on the side of being a mother, and he stood on the side of being a father,” said Foxx. “Stop worrying about what we believe in politically … Think about that 17 year-old child.”

Although the vigil focused on Trayvon, it also raised racially charged issues specific to New York City.

“Being black is not a crime. Wearing a hoodie is not a crime,” Councilman Williams said, addressing the crowd. “Ignoring Stop-and-Frisk is a crime. The things Bloomberg does and does not do are crimes.”

The trial for Trayvon’s shooter, George Zimmerman, is set for June 2013, but among the demonstrators were some parents who had lost children in cases similar to Trayvon’s. Nicholas Heyward Sr., 56, lost his 13-year-old son in 1994 when he was shot and killed by a New York Police Department officer while he was playing with toy guns in a house in Gowanus, Brooklyn.

“I feel outraged by the Trayvon Martin case,” Heyward Sr. said. “Though it was out in Florida, it doesn’t matter. Things like that should not happen.”

The vigil also attracted NYU students like Andrew Donilon, a sophomore in the Liberal Studies Program who spoke out against racism in the United States.

“Trayvon Martin is not an anomaly,” he said. “This is a regular occurrence, and it happens on pretty much a daily basis for people who are black and brown in this country.”

Landis Anderson, a 23-year-old from the Bronx, came to the vigil to take a stand against racial profiling.

“It touches home because, regardless of who you are, it hurts to be reminded of what you look like, that you’re not the norm, and that you’re not what’s considered acceptable,” she said. “I don’t think it’s okay that we just stand here and allow it to continue.

Anderson said even one year later the case is still being overlooked.

“What is the justice system worth if it doesn’t try and figure out why this boy was killed?” she said.

A version of this article appeared in the Feb. 27 print edition. Veronica Carchedi is city/state editor. Additional reporting by Kevin Burns. Email them at cstate@nyunews.com.

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