School Without Walls Student Activists March for Justice in Trayvon Martin Death 

March 27, 2012


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Photo by Andy Le
School Without Walls students march from their G Street NW school March 27 for a peaceful demonstration in front of the White House to call for action in the Trayvon Martin case.
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Photo by Andy Le
Holding a paper banner that reads “School Without Walls for Justice,” students from the G Street NW school chant “We are Trayvon Martin – Justice for Trayvon Martin” and cheer as passing cars and trucks honked their horns in support.
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Photo by Andy Le
School Without Walls students depart from their G Street NW school for a peaceful march to the White House to call for action in the Trayvon Martin case
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Photo by Andy Le
At the White House, School Without Walls students march in a circle, holding protest signs and chanting, “We are Trayvon Martin – Justice for Trayvon Martin.”

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School Without Walls sophomores Malik Johnson and Tyriek Mack feel a strong connection to Trayvon Martin, the Florida teenager who was gunned down Feb. 26 while walking through a gated community in Sanford, Fla.

“We’re the same age, same ethnicity – that could have been us,” Mack said.

The two 15-year-olds joined more than 300 School Without Walls students, staff and supporters Tuesday in a peaceful march to the White House, where they demonstrated in support of the Martin family and in memory of Trayvon Martin.

“We just want to bring attention to this injustice,” Johnson said. “I feel like we’re part of a movement.”

From the front door of their G Street NW school to Pennsylvania Avenue and the White House, students marching behind a paper banner that read, “School Without Walls for Justice,” chanted “We are Trayvon Martin – Justice for Trayvon Martin” and cheered as passing cars and trucks honked their horns in support.

“I’m just so proud of these students,” said Akosua Tyus, president of the DC chapter for the NAACP and a School Without Walls alumna, who participated in Tuesday’s march. “This is a student-led movement. I’m proud of School Without Walls.”

Hundreds of people – employees from office buildings, shops and restaurants along the route, college students, tourists, Foggy Bottom residents – stopped to watch the procession. Some cheered, some applauded, some snapped photos and shot videos.   

“I think this is outstanding,” said Tony Green, who stopped to watch and shouted words of encouragement. “This keeps their minds on doing the right thing. It’s just great.”

Lydia Curtis, whose daughter, Ngozi Robinson, graduated from School Without Walls in 2010, joined the march in support of students.

“I love this. I have goose bumps because the students did this themselves,” Curtis said. “It’s a time of more activism after a time of apathy. With young people doing this, if makes me feel better about the future.”

In front of the White House, demonstrators marched in a circle holding protest signs created by students Sudi Rodway, Ashley Knox, Elmina Bell and Ralph Peters and calling for justice. Kristen Ellis, a School Without Walls senior and one of the students who organized the march, rallied students and supporters as the circle closed and the procession returned to G Street.

“We are Trayvon Martin!” she shouted through a bullhorn. “Justice for Trayvon Martin!”      

After the march, Ellis stood outside the school with classmates Neah Evering, Angelique Gaston and Quintess Bond, who played major roles in organizing student efforts. 

“This was so much better than I thought it would be,” said Ellis, crediting Principal Richard Trogisch, George Washington University professor and School Without Walls teacher Dr. Bernard Demczuk, teacher Edward Ismail and administrative assistant Ms. Boland for helping guide students as they launched the protest.

“It was so moving to see young people doing this. We came together on this idea and we’re going to keep working,” Ellis said. “This is about demanding justice and that doesn’t take just one day.”    

Saddened and angered by Trayvon Martin’s death, School Without Walls students plan to follow of a course of action that started with a letter-writing campaign that generated about 130 letters urging authorities in Washington, DC, and Florida to take action and bring Trayvon Martin’s alleged shooter to justice.

In the days that followed, other protests unfolded across the nation and in the community where the fatal shooting occurred. Students at School Without Walls felt the momentum growing – they felt like they were part of a nationwide movement – and launched other projects.

At Dunbar High School, more than 200 students participated in a demonstration March 28 before rallying outside the Ward 5 high school. Students, led by Thomas Pearson-Green, Brittany Hardy, Majustice Gaino, Johnathan Hewit and James Batts, wore hoodie sweatshirts and rattled bags of Skittles – symbols that have become synonymous with the Trayvon Martin case – in a sign of solidarity.

Through poetry, song, a spirited speech by Principal Stephen Jackson and a march through the surrounding neighborhood with call-and-response chants of ‘No Justice, No Peace!’ students hope they have begun to play their part in bringing more attention to this tragedy and inspiring others to act.

At School Without Walls Ellis, Evering, Bond and Gaston want to hold teach-ins and a symposium at the school to discuss issues related to the Trayvon Martin slaying, such as racial profiling and the “insidious school-to-prison pipe line of Black and Brown youth filling up the prison industrial complex.

And Bond is working to establish a foundation in Trayvon Martin’s name to help defray lawyer expenses for the Martin family and bring them back to the District to discuss the case with students. 

“The protest is designed around one theme: injustice,” Ellis said. “Protests need to be made, letters need to be written, petitions need to be signed. Such a needless death deserves this treatment.”

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