Mr. President, in Nov. 2008, I took my son into the voting booth as I cast my ballot for you. Like millions of black voters across the nation, I recognized that day, that year, that season of hope and change as a key moment in our great nation’s history.
On that day, a seed matured.
It was a seed that was planted with my ancestors’ bare hands, plunged into the copper-colored clay of Georgia and the tar-stained tobacco fields of the Carolinas.
It was a seed that was planted in orange groves in the days when my father — at the age of nine — was told to use a restaurant’s back door in his native Florida.
That seed, quite simply, held our future.
From seed to tree
On the day you were elected with the overwhelming support of black voters, that seed burst forth as a tree.
And if you are the trunk, Mr. President, then surely Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Medgar Evers and John F. Kennedy and Rosa Parks are the roots.
You, sir, are part of a tree that has been watered not only by the hopes and dreams of a people, but with the blood of those who dared to fight oppression. Its branches are the many successful people who have thrived due to the sacrifices of others. But, as you know, the fruit of a tree is the key to its survival. And Mr. President, our children are the fruit of that tree.
Therefore, Mr. President, on behalf of the millions of black voters who made both your election and reelection possible, I am asking that your administration take the first step in what will surely be a long and arduous struggle.
Why civil-rights charges should be filed
I am asking your administration, in the person of U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, to pursue federal civil rights charges against George Zimmerman in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin.
I make this request not as a voter, nor as a writer, but as a father.
I make this request because I still have my son to hug. I can still toss a ball with him. I can still share a meal with him. And, I can still see him laugh.
I make this request because I understood in the moment when my son walked into the voting booth with me, that he was the fruit of the tree, and the fruit must be protected and nurtured.
Trayvon Martin was the fruit of our tree, Mr. President, and his death must not be pointless.
We must begin to understand within our own community, just as others must be made to understand, that our young men are not suspects to be profiled and harassed. They are not failures waiting to happen. They are not targets that should be pursued.
Our young men are fruit, and if we are to survive as a people, we must make sure that our fruit lives long enough to ripen. Only then can it nourish and build up our community.
Another chance at history
There are those who will point to the murder rate among young black men and say that we must first address that crisis. Those people are right, but I have never seen anyone solve a problem by pointing to another. More often than not, that strategy leaves both problems unsolved.
I see this as yet another chance at history, Mr. President. More than that, it is an opportunity.
In moments like this, when past injustice intersects with present anger, leadership matters. Fairness matters. Justice matters.
But for the parents of children like my son and Trayvon Martin, it is important for us to know that our children matter. We are counting on you to show us that they do, Mr. President.