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Panel discusses Trayvon Martin

By Abdullah Salman - Special to the Tower and Melody Webster - Tower Staff Writer
On April 20, 2012

  On a recent rainy night in Preservation Park in downtown Oakland several members of the media gathered in remembrance of Trayvon Martin and to discuss the media's portrayal of African American men and how Martin's case has brought a lot of these issues to light.

  Moreover, the discussion of gun control and gun laws was a highlighted topic. The March 27 panel featured Dori Maynard, president of the Robert C. Maynard Institute for Journalism Education; Thomas Peele, author and investigative journalist for the Bay Area News Group; Kevin Weston, director of News Media and Youth Communication for New America Media, and W.Kamau Bell, an actor and comedian.

  Martin G. Reynolds, senior editor of community engagement for the Bay Area News Group, hosted the event, providing a lighthearted feel to the seriousness of the content.

  Reynolds began with a brief overview of the Martin case and the problems this case has brought to light, such as negative and stereotypical portrayals of African American men in the media as well as Florida's "stand your ground" law, which allows the use of lethal force if one is feeling threatened, which many believe results in racial profiling.

  Reynolds quoted President Barack Obama's statement, "If I had a son, he would look like Trayvon," and made a quirky remark on wearing hoodies at the rainy night event. Reynolds' presentation theme was the impact of media images.

  Reynolds showed a sequence of footage from major news networks CNN, FOX, NBC, and CBS, while discussing how some images and news stories are twisted to give the public a delusional opinion of African American men, and at the same time regarding the positive impact that African American men really do have on the media.

  Reynolds then asked panel members to describe their feelings at the moment they received news of Martin's death. Maynard responded, "It was like a nightmare to me."

   Peele offered a humorous twist: "If I had a son, he would never look like Zimmerman," and went on to blame the "stand your ground law" of self-defense for the gun control problems and senseless violence in Florida. Kevin Weston exclaimed, "I am wearing a hoodie! It's raining today!

  "Should I expect someone to kill me? We want the justice for Trayvon, but the issue is bigger than that it's the gun violations towards the black community."

  And W. Kamau Bell was grateful for the coverage Martin's case received. "The impact of the social media networks kept this story alive until this moment. I would imagine how much less influential it would be if we were living in the '80's!"

  Reynolds posed questions about the impact of black and white images on society and how to educate the new and young journalists to find out the truth and distinguish it from the incorrect including looking beyond the systematic agenda and propaganda that the modern media produce.

   Peele interacted with the audience members and spread his message of "No guns for everyone in the U.S.A.," and stopping the gun culture.

  Kalvin Williams, an audience member who works on the Boys and Men of Color Initiative, concluded, "The panels were saying that no one hates us as much as we hate ourselves, but my reflection is that nobody will love us the way we can love ourselves."

  This summarized the event well, expressing the notion of a non-discriminatory society where pointless violence and mass media influence does not exist.

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