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Black Student Movement events focus on Trayvon Martin

The three-lecture series will explore issues in the case.

Following the fallout surrounding the controversial verdict in the State of Florida v. George Zimmerman case in July, UNC groups are working to ensure students are educated before forming opinions on the outcome.

The Black Student Movement’s Political Action Committee, in conjunction with the Carolina Black Caucus and UNC NAACP, is hosting a three-part discussion series on the Trayvon Martin case.

The events, which kick off Wednesday, will allow students to have open conversation and ask questions about the case.

“We hope to give those attending more insight to develop knowledgeable criticisms of the case,” said Brandon Napier, BSM’s Political Action Committee co-chairman.

“We want to clear up any misconceptions about criminal law trials so that when they’re making opinions about the Trayvon Martin case, they’re able to be knowledgeable in those (opinions) and be able to consider all of the factors that went into the case.”

Martin was an African-American young man who was shot and killed by Zimmerman, a community watchman in a Florida neighborhood who claimed self-defense in his trial. Zimmerman was found not guilty of second-degree murder in the incident under a Florida statute known as the “Stand Your Ground” law, which allows for deadly retaliation in cases of self-defense.

In response to continued national attention to the case, BSM organizers decided to host the series to provide students with a space to explore issues around the shooting.

BSM Political Action Committee Co-Chairwoman Summer Holmes said Wednesday’s discussion — “The Decision, The Law and Understanding Court Procedures” — will focus on legal terminology.

“We’re going to be talking about legal vernacular … basically any elements of the case that a normal, everyday person wouldn’t know,” Holmes said.

“Like, what is ‘proof beyond a reasonable doubt,’ or ‘burden of proof,’ things like that. What do those mean and how do those play into the case?”

Holmes said three law professors will attend the event to participate in the discussion and answer questions.

Exercise and sports sciences professor Deborah Stroman, chairwoman of the Carolina Black Caucus, said the case presents an opportunity to start a national discussion on racism.

“For as great as America is as a country … there (are) taboo subjects, and one of them, I would say, is race.”

“We have a very ugly history in terms of our mistreatment of various people, and the Trayvon Martin tragedy really brought up the issue.

“To me, it provides a wonderful case study or example of how we need to talk more about this and what it means to people.”

The second event in the series will take place on Sept. 11 and will focus on themes such as being black in America and media representation of the case. The third session will center around ways for minority youth to empower themselves.

“We want our generation to be more politically active,” Holmes said. “To know what’s going on, know what kind of laws are being passed in our state and our country.

“We want people to be empowered to change things that politically or legally they don’t like. We want people to take an active role in being a citizen of the United States.”

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