by Latecia Shantrea
(CEO of Mayhem Media Group, founder of Established Mayhem Clothing)
By now you’ve heard the story, become enraged, enthralled and deeply saddened by Travyon Martin’s death. While communities call for change marching on his behalf, his parents simply want their son back. I, like many people watching on the sidelines, admire the strength of the parents to take a stand for their son even as they mourn his loss. The sad part is, they won’t have their son back, nor will they have peace, even if Zimmerman is jailed. Another sad fact about Travyon Martin’s death is the two nations impacted: America and Hip Hop. They are not the one in the same – Hip hop doesn’t know a color, but America does.
I’m 26 years old, an owner of three businesses, an investor in others. I have a development firm who’s impact is far reaching and am connected to people whose impact is far-stretching. I am a songwriter, a designer, an author, an artist and much more. I don’t say that to be braggadocios, only to paint a picture. I run my own businesses and exist in a world where I can truly make my own rules. I sometimes wake at noon, and take random days off in the middle of the week. I seldom ever put on full business dress unless it’s to go to a meeting or to church. Established Mayhem Clothing has a line of sweatshirts that I proudly wear to the gym, lounging around the house, on cold nights, etc. Sweatshirts are a part of my uniform. I’m also a black female, so I’m not seen as a threat by society. But, Travyon Martin could have been one of my brothers. I could have easily gotten that call about Brand Ambassadors Rod Blaze, Ammodaius or Cyfa Fix. I could have just as easily gotten that call about any one of my business partners and friends. Productive members of society and members of the hip hop nation, who feel more comfortable throwing on a sweatshirt and some jay’s to go to Uptown to enjoy their friends are seen as threats, simply because of the color of their skin. Even as they offer support to the women and families in their lives, attempt to build brands and chase their dreams – they are seen as threats simply for wearing a sweatshirt while being a black male in America. I was blessed enough to grow up in a suburban area and go to private schools where race was not an issue. I had, and still have, a mixture of friends who never saw race. I remember my Father sitting my sisters and me down to explain “the rules” – always be polite, never talk back, especially to cops, always be respectful, even if you’re mad, know your place, don’t be afraid to be indignant, but don’t let pride get you killed.
I remember being followed around the store by a clerk who forgot my money was green because my color was black, and I recall being outraged even then. I didn’t understand the contrast between the America I knew as a child and the reality of the America I lived in. The Hip hop nation because music isn’t racist, neither the integrated circles we exist in. The Hip hop nation has power to change the world, not just the American nation, and truly Ignite a revolution. By fighting back and fighting for Travyon Martin and the unnamed boys who are senselessly gunned down every day for the crime of walking while black we send a strong message: you can no longer have our brothers, friends, and sons. Geraldo Rivera was wrong, Martin’s sweatshirt didn’t kill him, Zimmerman’s ignorance did and the only way to combat ignorance is to match it with knowledge.
There is power in knowledge, we must educate ourselves on the laws that impact our communities and become active in changing them. While the Federal government does a lot, it’s up to us to take back our communities and we do that by voting in local elections, staying registered and informed. Even though Hip Hop doesn’t see a color, America still does. It’s like Kanye said so many years ago, “even if you’re in a benz you’re still a n***a in a coup” and Travyon Martin’s death is a stark reminder of the world we live in. Arm yourself and your communities by directing the rage to protect our sons, Fathers, brothers and friends. Get involved, stay involved. The revolution starts within.
For more information on registering to vote, see the links below: