Anniversary of Trayvon Martin's death sparks discussion on race relations

Posted at: 02/26/2013 10:36 PM
Updated at: 02/27/2013 6:31 AM
By: Lynette Adams

One year ago, a Florida teenager Trayvon Martin was shot and killed. The 17-year -old's death sparked a national outcry over self-defense laws and race issues. Two groups in Rochester gathered on the anniversary, one to discuss race and another to fight back against racism.     

One group looked back at an incident that happened 50 years ago and the other group looked back one year since Trayvon Martin's shooting, both asking the same questions, has anything changed and what part should every citizen play?

For one group what happened a year ago in Florida to 17-year-old Trayvon Martin is an example of the racism that still exists in this country and a host of other problems that come from hatred and intolerance. One year later, this group is asking what has changed.

Said Anansa Benboy, “I hope that our rally does spark something in somebody's brain, in somebody’s life, that this is an issue that needs to be talked about, that needs to be addressed and not in synchronies, not in children, not in adults in everybody. Everybody, everyone needs to know about this.”

These people, some generations older, may have asking the same question as they watched a documentary about the Rochester riots of 1964.  But it's been 50 years since the riots when primarily people of color protested against police brutality, poverty and the lack of jobs.  Most people we talked with Tuesday night say not much has improved. In fact, some fear things have gotten worse for city dwellers.

“I think there are a lot of problems. There's confusion, there's misunderstanding, there's animosity, there's fear. I know a lot of people don't go into the inner city because they're fearful. So, that has to stop,” said Judy Bennett.

Judy Bennett and her husband left the suburbs and moved back into the city. They came Tuesday night because they want to do something about the problems. She was among dozens of others who took part in group discussions, talking about the problems and some solutions.

“What strikes me is the situation is not any better than what it was then. We need to do something about this situation in Rochester,” said one man at the discussion.

New York State Regent Emeritus, Dr. Walter Cooper lived through the riots. He says the sight Tuesday night was encouraging, but he says there is a lot of work to do.

Dr. Cooper said, “If you represent an organization, whether it's the Urban League, ABC, or the black churches and during the summer you do not have a very intensive reading tutorial program for the children, then you're irrelevant to the future of young black children in this community."

Cooper says there cannot be change of any kind in this community without first improving in the educational system.