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After 10 years, young activists remember Trayvon Martin's killing like it was yesterday

trayvon protests 2012 ap
Julie Fletcher, File
AP Photo
FILE- In this March 22, 2012 file photo, protestors Lakesha Hall of Sanford, center, and her son, Calvin Simms, right, participate in a rally for Trayvon Martin, the Black teenager who was fatally shot by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch captain in Sanford, FL

Trayvon Martin’s death 10 years ago impacted the world and changed the lives of many.

Orlando activists Miles Mulrain Jr. and Angela Herrera, who helped organize Orlando’s 2020 protests over George Floyd, speak about how the Martin case impacted their lives and the role of social media.

It Feels Like It Just Happened

Miles Mulrain Jr. and Angela Herrera remember Trayvon Martin’s death like it was yesterday.

Herrera was heading into high school at the time, “I was definitely too young to get involved politically or actively attend any protests. However, this was one of the first times where I saw the impact this had on my community and all my friends.”

Mulrain was in his early 20s when Martin was killed.

“One of my first experiences with anything close to activism was going to the rally in Sanford. I remember putting on my hoodie and saying, ‘I am Trayvon’ and feeling so enraged,” Mulrain said.

WMFE's Talia Blake (left) speaking with Angela Herrera (middle), and Miles Mulrain Jr. (right). Angela Herrera helped organize Orlando’s 2020 protests over George Floyd and Miles Mulrain is an Orlando activist who's been active in the area for quite some time.
WMFE's Talia Blake (left) speaking with Angela Herrera (middle), and Miles Mulrain Jr. (right). Angela Herrera helped organize Orlando’s 2020 protests over George Floyd and Miles Mulrain is an Orlando activist who's been active in the area for quite some time.

“Reliving the kind of thoughts of how close to age we were at that time, and how that could have been me or my little brother,” he said, “it was something that hit hard.”

The Talk

After Martin was killed in 2012, Mulrain said his mother began to worry about him as he was in his early 20s at the time.

“She worried about what happened to me or the Stand Your Ground law that everybody was talking about — how it could be used against people of color,” Mulrain explained. “It was just a scary moment.”

“I remember everybody in my family feeling vulnerable and telling every Black man they knew (and) every Black boy to just be careful because you can see what can happen.”

Mulrain grew up in Central Florida. For him, the way Martin's killing was handled opened his eyes to the area where he resides.

“And me being in my early 20s, I knew that there would be no less sympathy for me if there was no less sympathy for Trayvon.”

The Role of Social Media

Social media played a big role in bringing attention to Trayvon Martin’s case. His pictures began to circulate on Facebook and Twitter.

According to the Pew Research Center, the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag first appeared on Twitter in July 2013 following the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of Martin.

Activists like Herrera are still using social media today to fight social injustice. She said social media is a powerful tool, especially for millennials and Gen Z to help spread information and get people involved.

Herrera said without social media, it can be hard to get involved with some organizations.

“You don’t have to call these organizations,” she explained. “You could literally go on your phone, look for an event. Just show up right then and there. The information is literally in my hands, It makes it more accessible.”

Not only can you use social media to spread information about events and where you can take physical action, but Mulrain adds that you can also make a call to action online.

“You might put out a call for people to call a certain phone number, email, or write a letter,” he said. “You can see the power of social media, especially with petitions and different things that you can actually get paper trails.”

Everyone’s schedule is different and some people can’t make it to physically support an issue. “So instead, they may have to support through a phone call, a donation, or just showing up and dropping off water bottles and going back to work.”

Has there been progress?

When it comes to any progress made in the 10 years since Trayvon Martin’s killing, Mulrain sees it as a double-edged sword.

“I think that we’ve seen people, the individual person, has maybe become more aware and maybe has taken more action,” said Mulrain. “But at the same time, you’ve seen more people become desensitized to it, or it’s just another incident that’s taking place, and people sometimes feel like it’s pointless to keep fighting if they don’t see immediate change.”

Mulrain said social media can be great…but not all the time. “Sometimes you can just make an issue, not as important as it should be because you have an issue that takes place one week in a city. And then next week, another issue happens that overshadows it. And people kind of jumped from trends like they do social medias.”

However, Herrera doesn’t think we’ve made progress that she’d like to see.

“Just in the past year, the amount of police killings did not change from 2020 to 2021. And that just tells you a whole lot,” she said. “We’re protesting, we are advocating, but why is that number still the same?”

Herrera agrees with Mulrain that more people are aware of the problem and that’s great. “But we can’t forget that what we’re advocating for is for reform, and we are yet to see that. And if we are seeing, it’s happening slow. We have to continue pushing for it.”

Mulrain and Herrera both hope that 10 years from now, we’re not still discussing new names. Instead, they hope to talk about how “we stopped having so many names added to the hashtags” and “it’s not a trend that people only care when something horrible happens that people care 24/7.”

Copyright 2022 WMFE. To see more, visit WMFE.

Talia Blake