President’s Message by Bill Wynn, August 2013


New CCDC President Bill Wynn addresses the audience.

Trayvon Martin: his presence may be gone, but the name lingers on. That sickening, sinking feeling has crawled into our guts yet again.

Trayvon Martin becomes another martyr for the seemingly never ending Civil Rights struggle. Trayvon joins Emmett Till, Medgar Evers, four little girls killed in the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, Dr. Martin Luther King, and thousands of other African Americans who have been killed primarily because of their race.

The nation is still talking about the verdict in the Trayvon Martin murder trial in songs, teach-ins, panel discussions and legislative proposals. In Congress, Rep. John Conyers has introduced the End Racial Profiling Act, Sen. Ben Cardin is sponsoring the Senate version of the bill.

Aside from banning racial profiling, the bill seeks to strengthen law-enforcement training to ensure officers are basing their patrols and apprehensions on behavior, not skin color. Hearings are being held to discuss various aspects connected with the case.

Here in California the State Assembly’s Select Committee on the Status of Boys and Men of Color, formed by Speaker John Perez last year, will examine the progress made toward keeping kids in school, implementing approaches for campus safety, and addressing the violence youth experience in their communities. The committee is also advocating for a package of bills tacking these key areas and will identify priorities next year.

California’s boys and young men of color are more likely to grow up in neighborhoods marked by poverty, lack of opportunity, violence, underfunded schools and low-wage jobs that do not represent pathways to careers and success.

After a series of hearings last year, the committee released a draft report and action plan intended to be a blueprint for the next 10 years, outlining key legislative proposals to advance outcomes on health, education, employment, juvenile justice and youth development.

Having an identity is one thing. Being born into an identity is quite a different matter. This is part of the discussion that America is starting to have now. Sadly, to get the ball rolling, it takes violence, discrimination, assault and the specter of denial to be pulled out into the light. It takes a lot people saying “Enough”. If there is one set of laws, one Constitution for every citizen, its protections hopefully applied equally to all, then why do results seem to differ so radically?

Recently, President Obama spoke personally and eloquently about race in America. He put himself right in the middle of it. The backlash was swift as it was bizarre. That’s when I knew he was onto something.

You have to value all these young people. You have to see yourself in them. You cannot divorce their plight from your own. They should not be broken. Because it all matters. It is life and death. It is the present and the future. It is everything.

In this year marking 50 years of civil rights progress, we must renew our commitment to building “a more perfect union.” There is no celebration without continuation. The 21st century civil rights struggle has never before confronted us so boldly and clearly.