At vigil, Nutter cites city violence against African Americans

Posted: March 30, 2012

In the slaying of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin, Mayor Nutter saw a familiar theme that hit home.

"Eighty-five percent of homicide victims in Philadelphia are black," he said Thursday night at a rally in LOVE Park.

"How is it possible that thousands of black people are killed every year and no one says a word?" he asked. "If it's just black people, it doesn't register on the radar screen. Trayvon was assassinated."

Nutter headlined the antiviolence vigil, the third such local event in less than a week since the Feb. 26 slaying. Martin was shot and killed in Sanford, Fla., by a member of a Neighborhood Watch.

The vigil, organized by the Philadelphia NAACP and National Action Network, included speeches, stories, and even poetry. Discussion ranged from Martin's shooting to violence in Philadelphia.

"We've had 88 Trayvons since Jan. 1 - 88 young black and Latino men have been killed since Jan. 1. We are killing each other at a disgusting, inhumane pace," said Jerome Mondesire, president of the Philadelphia chapter of the NAACP.

The Rev. Rodney Muhammed of Philadelphia's Mosque 12 agreed, saying, "America for us is a crime scene. Young black men are an endangered species unless we change the narrative."

C.B. Kimmons, a youth advocate involved with fighting gang violence, said, "Men of color are being slaughtered. We're losing future doctors and lawyers."

Several speakers stressed the need for accountability in the city's black community and encouraged people to come forward with information about crimes. "We're harboring the perpetrators in our homes," said Mark Harrell of Men United for a Better Philadelphia. "We need to stop our silence. We know who did it. We need to elicit the same response as this for each murder in this city."

Chad Dion Lassiter, a professor of social policy at the University of Pennsylvania and president of Black Men at Penn, called for the community to be proactive. "We've got to be socially conscious, socially responsible, and socially active," he said.

Malik Aziz, a board member of the Philadelphia NAACP, urged people not to forget the issue of violence after the Martin case leaves the media spotlight. "We just jump out for a minute with outrage, then after a week no one cares. But every murder is real in this town. Every murder is real in this country."

About 200 people attended the vigil. Last Friday, between 5,000 and 8,000 people participated in a "Million Hoodie March" in support of Martin's family. On Monday, another candlelight vigil was held at LOVE Park.


Contact staff writer Shaj Mathew at smathew@philly.com or follow @shaj10 on Twitter.

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