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Trayvon Martin’s 20th Birthday: A Timeline Of Racial Issues That Have Plagued Black America  was originally published on

1. Trayvon Martin’s Life Wasn’t In Vain

Trayvon Martin’s Life Wasn’t In Vain

Today, February 5th, would’ve been Trayvon Martin’s 20th birthday. Since his passing, racial issues have become the thread of America and it’s rocked Black America, shaking loose all trust in those who vow to protect and serve. While we remain shocked and saddened by continued cycle of racism and prejudice, we know Martin’s life in vain. He was part of the painful truth of racism. Here’s 20 years of racial injustice.

2. 1995: The OJ Simpson Verdict

The public response to the Simpson verdict was one of the most distinct and loudest examples of the racial divide in the ’90s. Because Simpson was indirectly representing every Black male in America during the trial of the century, many Black people were relieved that he was vindicated as “not guilty” by the jury. But White people were captured on camera mortified.

3. 1996: Texaco Pays Over $170 Million In A Racial Discrimination Case

1996: Texaco Pays Over $170 Million In A Racial Discrimination Case

Oil co. Texaco was originally sued in 1994 by 3 Black workers who had experienced a racist & hostile environment. There were released tapes of the senior execs referring to their minority employees as “black jelly beans” and “n*gger.” Jesse Jackson proposed a boycott and the brand paid millions in damages.

4. 1997: Stephen Lawrence’s Alleged Murderers Exposed

1997: Stephen Lawrence’s Alleged Murderers Exposed

In 1993, Stephen Lawrence was a British-born Black teenager, who was murdered by 5 White men while waiting for the local bus. The hate crime was highly publicized in the U.K. and on Valentine’s Day in 1997, the Daily Mail newspaper stood with Lawrence’s family and printed the photos on of the 5 alleged killers. The case still lingered for years and it wasn’t until 2002 that 2 of the men were finally convicted.

5. 1998: The Death Of James Bryd, Jr.

Byrd was leaving a bridal shower when he was approached by 3 White men in a truck. The men went on to brutally murder Byrd by beating him and dragging him by his ankles as they drove for miles. His body parts were severed and mutilated. In 2011, justice was served as Byrd’s killers faced fate: Lawrence Russell Brewer died through lethal injection; John King’s on death row; and Shawn Berry received life in prison.

6. 1999: Amadou Diallo & 41 Bullets

Diallo was on the steps of his Bronx apartment building when he was mistaken for a burglar by 4 White male cops. The cops proceeded to spray the 22-year-old Guinean immigrant with 41 bullets and 19 struck him before they stopped. Outrage spread across NYC and in 2004, the Diallo family received $3 million from the city from a lawsuit. His mother Kadiatou has since become an activist against police brutality.

7. 2000: Former Black Panther Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin Is Accused of Murder

2000: Former Black Panther Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin Is Accused of Murder

Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin, a former SNCC leader and Black Panther affiliate under the nickname H. Rap Brown was charged with 13 counts of murder and aggravated assault for shooting a sheriff and wounding another. The deadly encounter happened when Al-Amin was approached by the cops, who wanted to serve him a warrant for impersonating a cop and for speeding. Since 2002, he’s been serving a life prison sentence.

8. 2001:The Cincinnati Riots

The Cincinnati Riots were a scary turning point as enraged residents took to the streets in an angry protest over the death of Black teen Timothy Thomas. Thomas, unarmed, was killed by a cop and his death was the final straw for the Black community after a string of police brutality incidents. Described as the “L.A. Riots” of the north, the riots lasted for 5 days and cost the city $10 million.

9. 2002: Donovan Jackson Chavis & Inglewood Cops

2002: Donovan Jackson Chavis & Inglewood Cops

In July 2002, Chavis, Sr. was approached by police while Chavis, Jr. was buying chips at a gas station. When Chavis saw what was happening, he reacted uncontrollably due to his “auditory processing delays” disability. White cop Brian Darvish slammed Chavis, Jr. to the trunk of a car and punched him in the face. The incident was caught on camera by Mitchell Crooks and the Chavises filed a suit.

10. 2003: Scranton, Pennslyvania’s Skinhead Epidemic & Ousmane Zongo

2003: Scranton, Pennslyvania’s Skinhead Epidemic & Ousmane Zongo

In a small town, there was the rise of hate crimes, hate speech and White supremacy groups, as a Black man had been threatened by members of the Keystone State Skinheads. This in-depth news special tried to uncover why Scranton had become a central location for racist recruiting. 2003 was also the year that Ousmane Zongo, a West African immigrant, died in a New York warehouse during a homicide by a NYPD officer.

11. 2005: Hurricane Katrina

2005: Hurricane Katrina

We all remember the horrific aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and it wasn’t just the physical destruction. The level of racism targeted at Black people vs. White people became a huge debate and the gov’t was accused of delaying resources and help because a large percentage of the Black people who were left. This was also when Kanye West made his infamous comment about President Bush not caring about Black people.

12. 2006: Sean Bell

Bell was unarmed when he was shot by 3 detectives who were also outside of Club Kalua, where his bachelor party was being held. They were there to investigate a possible prostitution ring, but as they became suspicious of Bell and his friends, a shoot-out occurred as Bell’s car crashed into an officer’s, they shot out 50 bullets at him. Bell died on his wedding day and the cops were later acquitted.

13. 2006: The Jena 6

6 Black male teenagers were accused of beating White student Justin Barker in Louisiana. Following Barker’s hospitalization and the story gaining national speed, racial tension rose and nooses were tied on Jena High School grounds and there were fights among students. The 6 were initially tried as adults and with attempted murder, which prompted protests–the largest in years (20k). Those charges were later reduced.

14. 2007: Don Imus Calls Female Basketball Team “Nappy Headed Hoes”

Imus tried it. While live on the air, he randomly chose to talk about the Rutgers University female basketball team, which was largely Black and referred to them as “nappy headed hoes.” Black people and leaders became angry, calling his comment “racist” and “sexist” and demanded an apology, which was received. But his show Imus In the Morning paid the price and CBS Radio cancelled it following the controversy.

15. 2008: LeBron James’ King Kong Cover For VOGUE

King James’ cover may feel like a random choice, but it provoked some very strong reactions from readers and pop culture critics who found James’ look as perpetuating Black men as scary and something to fear, while his cover girl Gisele Bundchen was innocent and docile. Some critics compared James’ image to that of King Kong and it became a hot topic of how racial caricatures were still being presented in the media.

16. 2009: Oscar Grant

The true story that was the basis of 2013’s film Fruitvale Station, occurred on New Year’s Day 2009. Oscar Grant, after trying to calm down a heightened situation between cops and his friends at a train station was shot directly by White cop Johannes Meserle. Grant died the next day at the hospital. His death sparked protests and the cop served a little over a year in jail and remains on parole.

17. 2010: Aiyana Stanley-Jones, Dead at 7-Years-Old

In May 2010, Stanley-Jones was killed during a police raid by her Detroit home. White officer Joseph Weekley fired the shot that hit her and was charged with involuntary manslaughter and reckless endangerment. But it would take 3 more years before a trial would begin and there was first a mistrial in 2013. In January 2015, Weekley was unthinkably cleared of charges for killing a 7-year-old child.

18. 2010: Omar Thornton, Employee Turned Gunman

Thornton was a former employee of Hartford Distributors and in a mass murder, he targeted White people at his job before committing suicide. He previously complained of racism in the workplace and had stolen two semiautomatic pistols once he resigned and was caught on camera stealing beer. After the shooting, he called 911 and calmly confessed. The incident is Connecticut’s 2nd most deadly massacre.

19. 2011: The Capital Punishment of Troy Davis

Davis’ case and eventual execution became an international headline because while he vouched non-stop for his innocence, he was accused of murdering police officer Mark MacPhail in 1989. Witnesses from the scene aligned with Davis that he was only helping a homeless man at the time. Plus, there was no evidence from a weapon or DNA to convict with him. Supporters worldwide protested, but he was executed in September.

20. 2012: Jordan Davis & Trayvon Martin

2012: Jordan Davis & Trayvon Martin

After Martin was followed and killed by George Zimmerman, the trial was closely watched as a case of racism in America. His death galvanized one of the biggest outpouring of protests and passionate pleas for justice in recent memory. But Zimmerman was disturbingly acquitted. Davis was also killed the same year and in the same state of Florida by Michael Dunn and Dunn will be serving 90 years plus life in prison.

21. 2014: #BlackLivesMatter: Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Renisha McBride, Antonio Martin, John Crawford, Tamir Rice & More

In 2014, the racial divide intensified as it appeared more than ever more unarmed Black lives were gunned down by police brutality. Eric Garner and Michael Brown particularly ignited the news and national protests as the non-indictments of the cops that killed them sparked a nationwide call for action that is called #BlackLivesMatters. We still march on for these slain souls now.

22. 2015: We Shall Overcome

2015: We Shall Overcome

While Dr. King’s dream has made some strides in the years since the height of the civil rights movement, we find ourselves right back in those trenches, fighting to let the world know that our lives matter. Trayvon’s life was taken, but it wasn’t in vain. He’s a part of a bigger message to spread to the world: #BlackLivesMatter. Happy birthday Trayvon.