07/15/2013 12:55 EDT | Updated 09/14/2013 05:12 EDT

Protecting Canada's Trayvon Martins


For those of us who are not American, Zimmerman's acquittal may give us an added sense of helplessness. While we feel the rage and pain, the fact that the verdict is not in our justice system may leave us feeling that we have no avenue for action. Here are some things Canadians can do:

1) Educate ourselves about the prison system in Canada. Canadians often feel that injustice against Black people/people of colour is limited to the South/Texas/Florida. Canada imprisons some of the highest numbers of people in the Western World and those numbers are growing. Educate yourself and others about Harper's policies in the justice system. Advocate around prisoners rights.

2) Advocate for community justice -- and I mean true community justice, not bike cops. We know the justice system doesn't serve our needs so why are we leaving the protection of our communities up to the police? White vigilantism is excused while we accept the lack of justice services we pay taxes for. Learn about true transformative justice. Run rights of passage programs. Get elders to intervene. Educate communities about how we can protect and support our own families and neighbors. Work to rehabilitate and not punish. If we stand against the criminalization of Black youth we need to end our complicity with the systems that criminalize them.

3) Support crime victims. Many of us feel sympathy for Trayvon's mother but abandon the mothers in our own communities or blame them for how they raised their children. Listen to crime victims. Support their need to be heard. Don't sweep abuse under the rug. Work in our communities to provide healing. If you are enraged about Trayvon but don't support child victims of the NSHCC, ask yourself why some children are expendable? If we can't support victims in our own communities, then the solutions offered by the justice system will never give us healing.

4) Advocate for youth rights in our own communities. People are rightly shocked that a grown man can stalk and kill a child, yet many of us maintain policies that strip children of their rights and voices and leave children vulnerable to violence in our homes and communities. Children are often subject to violence in their own homes, which is supported because they lack the rights of adults to bodily integrity, agency and power. Advocate with and for youth for the rights of children to be treated with dignity and as equals.

5) Work to empower children and youth in our own communities. We have the power and resources to educate, prepare and support our children. Why are we leaving their education to schools and organizations without their best interests at heart? We don't need government money to run activities, classes, tutoring, sports, music, etc. for our youth. Commit to taking time to work with youth.

6) Educate ourselves and our children about racism. Yes, it is important to tell children they can follow their dreams. But we also must give them information that protects them. This case showed us racism isn't over, so let's stop being scared to tell the truth to kids, leaving them vulnerable and confused. Teaching about racism also means teaching them Black Power principles. Don't pretend race doesn't exist for them, give them the knowledge to understand themselves.

7) Remember we are not helpless or dependent. This is a 400+ year resistance. Stop being complacent and educate, act and work in our communities for empowerment. Spend our money with Black businesses. Build Black programs. Stop accepting platitudes. Stop believing the battle is over. Get out in our communities, in the streets, wherever and fight for our right to be human.

8) When they want us dead our best resistance is to live and live powerfully, with purpose. Keep surviving. Stop being ashamed to be Black in public. Stop trying to assimilate and live your life because that's what they hate to see.

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