Michigan Community Responds to Trayvon Martin Trial Verdict

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More than 150 people attended a “town hall” meeting at Madison Square Church, Grand Rapids, Mich., to respond to the recent verdict acquitting George Zimmerman of killing Trayvon Martin, an unarmed African-American teen. The killing last February and the recent trial have provoked deep feelings among many Americans and prompted a discussion of modern racial tensions.

Attendees were invited to contribute their own impressions, feelings, and hopes. Ernie Long, an elder at Madison Square, said, “I remember when my mother warned me not to go out after Emmit Till was killed. I felt the same way when I heard the verdict. This was a modern-day lynching.”

Three of Long’s 18 grandchildren are the same age as Trayvon Martin. “I don’t want to tell them what my grandmother and mother told me: ‘Don’t let white folks catch you out alone,’” he said.

The evening began with a forum for youth from the church to share their responses to the case. Many youth identified it as a “wake-up call” to their generation, and evidence that racism is not only found in history books. “We serve a God of hope who loves justice,” said one of the youth.
The youth who presented were part of a summer-long study of the Bible as author of social justice, through which the youth have identified anti-violence as a common passion.

The meeting had been planned even before the verdict was announced “We cannot pretend this did not happen,” said Victoria Gibbs. Gibbs, who is co-director of Reaching In and Discipleship at Madison Square and a leader for Congregational Organizing for Racial Reconciliation (CORR), pointed to the church’s shared values of “authentic community” and “diversity with justice” to explain why the event was an important way to demonstrate that the church is serious about these values.

“The conversation is an end in itself,” said Albert Hamstra, a CORR member who helped plan the event, “We all listened.”

Laura Carpenter, Director of Diversity at Madison Square, closed the event by saying, “I hope that you did not come looking for a solution. That is impossible. If you came praying to be a part of the solution, that is possible.”

About the Author

Noah Kruis is the Banner's regional news correspondent for classes Grand Rapids East and Grand Rapids North.

See comments (7)


I appreciate that a church has to engage the community, but is this the wisest course of action? If Zimmerman had been convicted would it have been wise for a church with a Hispanic outreach to invite community members to vent their perceived injustice?

The event in Sanford, Florida was a terrible tragedy for both Trayvon's family and for the Zimmerman family, but there is a terrible tragedy in Chicago that's much greater than that killing. Just this year, there have been hundreds of shootings on the streets of Chicago, children, teens, moms, dads, and others. But where is the outrage?  Where is the media attention?  Where are the marches on the southside streets of Chicago for all these African American kids and adults? What if there were mass prayer meetings, marches, and neighborhood watch groups?  What if African American men were mentored on how to be an authentic, Christian father?   Is this not being talked about because some 85% of the shooters are black?  Why aren't we talking about the bloodshed on the streets of Chicago?

I am deeply saddened that Madison Square has decided to focus on the color of people's skin rather than the content of their character, and is perpetuating racial differences rather than looking past them.  The Bible is NOT the author of Social Justice, that is an apostasy.  Social Justice is a Humanistic endeavor that leaves Christ out of the picture.  There is IS a solution to all the sin and evil in the world and it's not us humans just "doing good", it is Jesus Christ, Yeshua HaMaschiach, in Him there is no color, race, prejudice...but apparently in many members of Madison Square CRC there is.  Please stop perpetuating the lies of Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson who are keeping their own people in bondage and wake up to the truth of the facts of the Martin/Zimmerman Case:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ebu6Yvzs4Ls

If we trusted the justice system to find a man guilty, we must trust it when it finds a man not guilty, or it's just partiality we seek.

Perhaps our CRC communities should devote time and energy to educating believers on how to spot the lies of powerful media elites, since much of the Zimmerman-Martin case was centered around half-truths, misconceptions, and emotional manipulation.  Why are we Christians being fooled by the world?  Jesus calls us to be as shrewd as snakes, yet as innocent as doves (Matthew 10:16), meaning we should not fall victim to the same disinformation campaigns that our secular counterparts do.

From the start, the media wanted this to be about race.  Yet as the facts and evidence were revealed, we learned that this was not about race at all, but was rather a terrible misunderstanding between two broken people.  Yet the media and the professional race-agitators continued their manipulation, despite evidence prooving them to be pathetically incorrect.

For unbelieving, secular people to be fooled by the media is understandable, for their minds and hearts have been darkened by ignorance.  But Christian brothers and sisters have the Light, and for us to be fooled as well is sad.  The leadership at Madison Square should have known better, and should not have encouraged people to continue in their ignorance and divisive attitudes.

As believers, we must put aside our racial fears, recognize the manipulation and lies of the powerful media, and strive to set the example of unity that our Savior prayed we would have in John 17:23.  Only then will the darkness of the world be chased away, and they will know God's love.  Unity, not division.  Truth, not lies.  Love, not hate.

It is shameful for a Church to be violating the commandment to: "Not bear false witness".  

The true facts are available, e.g. as included in a link in a previous posting, that it was obviously a case of self-defense.  George Zimmerman's nose was broken; his head was being pounded into the concrete.  Was he expected to just let Trayvon kill him?  

How come that congregation weren't so concerned about a 'white hispanic' baby murdered in his stroller?  He was shot in the face by a couple of black teens.   "I begged them not to shoot my baby( http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2297392/Sherry-West-tells-robbers-shot-sleeping-baby-Antonio-dead-Brunswick.html )"

How come the 'Reverend' Jackson isn't outraged and organizing protests about this?

The MEDIA is promoting this!  They are owned by people who want to see the demise of America...DO NOT fall for this...  While we fight amongst ourselves the Muslum Brotherhood is making GREAT gains in America.. The comments about the white folks catching you after dark...that is as racist as anything..and this was an HISPANIC man and a black young man.. ALL races have their bad dudes in them...The jury made their decision.    When the media makes a big deal of something just watch and see what LAWS they make in the future which will further take our rights away...  "Create a situation" and you can come in and make laws and take over...People are so blinded as to what and how this is done...I certainly hope that Laura Carpenter's words are taken seriously...to PRAY...IF every Christian of all colors prayed as this trial was going on...OH WOW!