Wisconsin Network for Peace and Justice

Trayvon Martin forum Aug 28 Press Contact: Colin Gillis
608-609-7369
colinrgillis@gmail.com

August 26, 2013
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Local anti-racist collective holds forum on Trayvon Martin verdict

Madison, WI -- Community members are invited to gather at James Reeb Unitarian Universalist Congregation (2146 E. Johnson St.) on August 28 from 6:30 to 8:30 pm to talk about racial justice in the aftermath of the Trayvon Martin verdict.  One of several events held in response to George Zimmerman’s acquittal, this forum will focus on racial inequality in Dane County and the role of white people in the local and national struggle for racial justice.  It has been organized by Groundwork, a mostly white anti-racist collective located in Madison.

The injustice of the death of Trayvon Martin and the not-guilty verdict for George Zimmerman has sparked national outrage, conversation, and action.  In Madison, Freedom Inc and the International Socialist Organization held a rally and candlelight vigil on July 14, 2013, the day after Zimmerman’s acquittal.  On July 23, the Urban League of Greater Madison convened a forum where leaders from Madison’s communities of color discussed the legal and political ramifications of the verdict, and they are organizing future events on the same topic.

Groundwork’s forum will highlight the extreme racial disparities in Madison’s schools and the Dane County criminal justice system.  In Dane County, the high school graduation rate for African Americans and Hispanic students is significantly lower than that of white students.  In 2012, only 53% of African American students and 63% of Hispanic students graduated from Madison public schools.  87% of white students and 81% of Asian students graduated.  Wisconsin also has one of the highest rates of disproportionate incarceration in the United States.  According to a study conducted by the Employment and Training Institute at the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee, 12.8% of African American men in Wisconsin are currently incarcerated, nearly double the national average of 6.7%.  In Dane County in 2006, 32% of African American men aged 18-54 and and 47% of African American men aged 25-29 were currently incarcerated, on probation, or on parole.

The forum will focus on the role that white people can play in addressing the root causes of these problems in our community.  “The struggle for racial justice begins at home,” says Groundwork member Colin Gillis, “Trayvon Martin was murdered in Florida, but the racism that caused his death and enabled his murderer to go free also exists right here in Madison.”

Groundwork member Ann Brickson pointed out that the event will occur on the fiftieth anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech at the 1963 March on Washington:  "Dr. King once said, 'Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter'.  The injustice of Trayvon Martin’s death and the racial inequities in our own County that reduce the life chances of people of color are powerful reminders that we still have much to learn from Dr. King fifty years after his most famous speech."

The event is free and open to all members of the public. Childcare will be provided.

Speakers include:

  • YES (Youth Empowering Students)
  • Ananda Mirili, YWCA
  • Jackie Austin, Madison Urban Ministry
  • Caliph Muab-el, Vice President of MOSES (Madison Organizing in Strength, Equality, and Solidarity)

For more information, visit the Groundwork website: groundworkmadison.wordpress.com

Sources:

  1. 2012 Madison Public High School graduation rate
  2. Wisconsin’s Mass Incarceration of African American Males: Workforce Challenges for 2013, a study prepared by John Pawasarat and Lois M. Quinn at the Employment and Training Institute, University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee
  3. Data regarding the incarceration of African American men in 2006 taken from Professor Pamela Oliver’s (Sociology, UW - Madison) Racial Disparities in Criminal Justice website

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