He answered the call to spearhead protest

JENICE ARMSTRONG / DAILY NEWS STAFF Chris Norris went silent after hearing Saturday's verdict. But he went to order a pizza . . . and the next day he was leading a rally.
JENICE ARMSTRONG / DAILY NEWS STAFF Chris Norris went silent after hearing Saturday's verdict. But he went to order a pizza . . . and the next day he was leading a rally.
Posted: July 17, 2013

I'M REMINDED of Vince Lombardi's quote, "Leaders are made, they are not born," when I think of how a local entrepreneur was drafted into leading Sunday's protest in Center City against George Zimmerman's acquittal.

Chris Norris, 26, had no intention of doing anything. After hearing the heart-wrenching news that Zimmerman had been found not guilty of second-degree murder for shooting unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin, he took himself off the grid.

Norris turned off his phone. Unplugged from social media, he holed up in his South Philly rowhouse. It was only when he tried to order pizza that the 2004 graduate of University City High School discovered he was being inundated with texts and phone messages. One of them was from Mannwell Glenn of the Philadelphia Unemployment Project, who told him, "Listen, man, you're a leader. . . . Chris, you've got to do something."

That got Norris going. He jumped on social media to spread the word about Sunday afternoon's protest. Hours later, he was at LOVE Park giving media interviews and watching as similarly outraged Philadelphians flooded the iconic park, many carrying signs blasting the verdict.

"This could have been any of us," Norris told Clear Channel's Loraine Ballard Morrill during a videotaped interview before the rally. "I've been in the situation where Trayvon was. I know people who have been in the situations where Trayvon was."

Trayvon had gone out for candy the night he was killed. Zimmerman's acquittal after a three-week trial sparked nationwide outrage and protests in cities around the country. Locally, demonstrators were fired up but peaceful.

It didn't hurt that this was something of a repeat performance for Norris, who in 2012 organized a similar demonstration.

That's when I first noticed Norris, a professional drummer who performs under the stage name Flood the Drummer. He's also the founder of Techbook Online, which he describes as a socially conscious news organization.

The next time I found myself watching him was this past spring after Philadelphia magazine's publication of an offensive article, "Being White in Philly." Instead of just being annoyed by a piece that allowed anonymous sources to cast aspersions against black residents, Norris marched into the offices of Philadelphia magazine.

"People were upset," Norris recalled. "I thought, why not go and talk to David Lipson, who was the president of the company."

That's Norris. He's not afraid to raise his hand and say, "I'll do it."

"I tell the guy all the time, you are the next wave," said Glenn, 50. "His heart is in the right place. He's not governed by money or any kind of exposure. He doesn't want to be the main guy at the microphone."

That was clear Sunday as Glenn urged the crowd to boycott Florida, where the verdict went down. Protesters milled around applauding. Meanwhile, Norris, who was the man of the hour, was nowhere near the stage.


On Twitter: @JeniceArmstrong

Blog: ph.ly/HeyJen

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