Trayvon Martin and God - Original Post date 3/29/2012

I’ve often been told that I have long piano playing fingers, but sadly, I never learned to tickle the ivory. I tried lessons in college, but when told that I would have to cut my long fingernails in order to hit the keys properly, my piano playing lessons quickly became a failed experiment; which is sad, as I probably could have been a good pianist based on my DNA.

I come from a long line of musicians and vocalists. My paternal great grandmother played the piano (and my aunt still has the baby grand that she owned) and her daughter (my grandmother) played the organ at church. My three heirs also play the piano. My dad sang in a street corner barbershop quartet and possessed a strong baritone voice, and my mother currently sings in her church choir. A few of my dad’s siblings currently sing in their church choirs, and my oldest brother is an actor and performs musical theatre. A deceased cousin was a pianist and music major in college, and another cousin sang in her college’s gospel ensemble boasting a beautiful soprano voice. My oldest heir auditioned and was chosen to sing second chair in her school’s premier chamber choir, besting a few upperclassmen with her score and her range.

However, when God passed out the musical talent genes, I think I must have been standing securely under an awning holding a triple ply umbrella wearing purple rubber duck boots and a bright yellow Paddington raincoat so that not even an ounce of musical ability would touch my frame. I tell myself that the musical giftedness gene must have been doled out in the form of precipitation and God knows that I don’t like to get my hair wet, so I wasn’t invited to that party.

I love music and sing loudly in the shower, in the car and in church. In church, I am a first chair alto or second soprano depending upon my mood, unconcerned about what my neighbors think about my less than perfect pitch. To me, pitch is something that you do with horseshoes or a baseball.

Even though I am musically challenged, like many women, I find musicians extremely enticing. Some people never understood the Heidi Klum/Seal pairing, but I did. He can sing. Or Kate Hudson’s marriage to the scruffy Chris Robinson. Like her mother, Goldie Hawn, Kate was attracted to musicians. There’s a reason why musicians have groupies. A man who can play an instrument and sing at the same time is quite alluring. For me, a tall man who can sing and play an instrument is a triple word score. And if he has athletic prowess, it’s game over. If former New York Yankee center fielder Bernie Williams could also sing while strumming his guitar, I would have made every ESPN highlight film because I would have scaled the wall and run onto the field and embraced my inner Cougar groupie.

I was a huge fan of Nat King Cole when I was in high school. I knew Nat King Cole as a singer before I realized that he was also a pianist. Keep in mind, he was long since dead when I began to adore him. I would later learn that my grandmother’s brother played briefly in Nat King Cole’s band, which I thought was extremely cool. Brian McKnight currently fits my triple word score fan formula. A few years ago, I sat in the front row at one of his concerts, and I’m convinced that he sang directly to me. As talented as Prince is and as much as I love neo-soul artist Maxwell, since they both play instruments and sing, they don’t meet my stature requirement, so they aren’t in the triple word score category. A veteran groupie does have her standards.

My triple word formula isn’t just limited to rockers and R&B crooners anymore. After his stirring eulogy at Whitney Houston’s home going celebration and then his singing of “God Has Spoken Let the Church Say Amen” while he played the piano, Marvin Winans is now in the triple word score category, although it sounds a tad sacrilegious for a pastor to have groupies. Click the You tube video of Marvin Winans singing “God Has Spoken Let the Church Say Amen!” so you can hear the song while you’re reading this blog.

With the internet, You Tube and social media at our fingertips, we have access to a plethora of real time information which can be a blessing or a curse. The Trayvon Martin homicide investigation is an example of social media using its power for good. Trayvon Martin’s death was not covered on the local news where I live; so, but for the efforts of Trayvon’s extended family who sought answers and justice and used social media to let people know what happened, his death would not have received the national media coverage and attention that it deserved.

Respected radio and news journalists are finding it hard to cover the story without obvious signs of disgust and sadness in their tones. Media celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey and Ed Schultz are appalled at the apparent miscarriage of justice that would allow Zimmerman to roam free after disobeying the 911 operator’s instruction not to pursue Trayvon Martin, confronting him and then shooting him in the chest as though he had hunted and shot a buck in the woods.

From our perch in social media world, the facts seem obvious; however, we must patiently wait for the justice system to play out. After the Casey Anthony verdict, the formally trained legal beagles in my circle of influence reminded me that the worst thing that a lawyer can do is let the media try your case. A case must be tried based on the evidence, facts and the letter of the law, not emotion. Several weeks after Trayvon’s slaying, it appears that the facts of the case are still murky, which has the world confused and emotional regarding the safety of brown boys. It’s a throwback to the Jim Crow era.

The justice department is probably canvassing the neighborhood interviewing witnesses and looking at the facts against the backdrop of the “stand your ground” gun law language that Zimmerman used as his self defense excuse. I’m certain that Attorney General Eric Holder has appointed the best legal minds on his team to ensure that the investigation is handled expertly. The world is watching. And the world is calling for justice. Sometimes there is moral justice and sometimes there’s legal justice and when all goes well, moral justice and legal justice co-exist in the same sphere.

Many are saying that Trayvon’s death is a modern day lynching. And that because Zimmerman’s father is a judge, Zimmerman was given preferential treatment by the police who arrived on the scene and recognized Zimmerman even as he stood over Trayvon’s dead body with a smoking gun in his hand. Possibly. A few are suggesting that even if Trayvon had been white, Zimmerman’s position as a privileged member of the Sanford community would have still warranted the same handling by the police department. Interesting. This theory suggests that class trumps race. In some countries that might be the case, but it’s not the case in the good old US of A. The United States has a history of treating even the most affluent people of color with the disdain and disregard that is reserved exclusively for the extremely underprivileged in other parts of the world. It’s why many affluent people of color left the United States to live in France and the UK. They were treated poorly in their own country despite their titles, talent and wealth, so they settled in a place where they would be treated better and not judged based solely on their skin color. In a perfect world, people would be treated with the same courtesies, dignity and respect afforded all regardless of race, religion, creed, position or social status. Wake me from my slumber when that bill gets passed.    

Believe it or not, most black people do not like to play the race card. It’s the last card played, not the first. Trust me on that one. But sometimes, you have to call a situation what it is and play the cards you’re dealt. And in the Trayvon Martin case, the quacking duck really looks like a duck.

In “Dancing with God’s Grace” book four in my Black Diamond Series, there’s a scene where one of the character’s brothers gets picked up by the police for being out past curfew with a friend. They are a few blocks from home. He’s black, and his friend is a white girl. The police take the girl home and haul the young man to the police station. When the father goes to the station to pick up his son, he uses the experience as a teaching moment to educate his children on the driving while black and racial profiling phenomena.

As someone who has been present when the brown men in my life experienced the driving while black phenomenon, I know that racial profiling in certain neighborhoods is very, very real. So, for me, it’s hard to believe that Zimmerman would have pursued a teenage white boy walking through his neighborhood, even if the white boy had been wearing a hoodie in the rain. There would have been an assumption that the young white boy belonged in the community; the exact opposite of the assumption made when Zimmerman realized that Trayvon was black. A black teen walking in his community didn’t belong and must be stopped. And a black teen running in his neighborhood must be guilty of a crime and should be pursued and shot.

If we’re being honest, most folks tend to fraternize with people who look like them, live in neighborhoods like them and think like them. We might have a few “other” friends outside those safe parameters, but most of our network circles do not resemble the united nations. Mine doesn’t. And if a minion dares bring home someone who doesn’t fit the triple word score of “look, live or think” like us and the minion thinks they’re going to get serious with the person, the thought leaders in the family will whisper things to discourage the friendship or relationship. Watch the brilliant classic “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” for the most eloquent “let’s not talk about race” dance that I’ve ever seen. As I’ve blogged before, I have black female friends who don’t want their sons marrying white girls, so when my daughters come home sharing that their white classmates are being told that they cannot under any circumstances date black guys, almost fifty years after “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” hit the screen, I’m not surprised. Prejudice and hatred go both ways. Personally, I don’t care if my children bring home circus clowns trained to eat fire. If the clowns treat them with love and respect, and don’t plan to live in my basement or ask me to pay their rent, I will pack their clown shoes and wish them well.

“God Has Spoken, Let the Church Say Amen!” God has spoken and said that we are to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. Clearly, we’re not listening.  Across the nation, the world is looking for answers to this senseless slaying. We are waiting for a word from the Sanford police department, reliable witnesses, the Justice department and God.

Isaiah 1:17 reminds us to “learn to do right, seek justice, defend the oppressed, take up the cause of the orphan and plead the case of the widow.”

I’m not exactly sure what happened in Sanford, but I know that what happened to Trayvon Martin wasn’t right. A young man lost his life, and we don’t have answers. When the gavel raps on the Trayvon Martin investigation, hopefully the “In God We Trust” phrase that we ignore each time we hold money in our hands will take on a new significance one where moral justice weds with legal justice in a colorblind justice system. That will be the ultimate triple word score. I pray that racial harmony, increased tolerance and justice are birthed from Trayvon Martin’s death. When that day comes, the church/world can then sing “God Has Spoken, Let the Church Say Amen!” I will be the one singing pitchy and wearing a hoodie.