What the the Black Community Must Do After the George Zimmerman Verdict

George Zimmerman, armed with a Kel-Tec PF-9 9mm handgun, pursued a 17-year-old black boy, first, in his car, and then, on foot, shot and killed him, and was acquitted of all charges.

For most African Americans, the Zimmerman verdict is just another example in their mind of the bias towards black people inherent in the criminal justice system.

In reality, though, it is an opportunity to start a new wave of social and political activism to improve conditions in the black community.

The black community must seize the opportunity to recapture its zeal for political activism, and embrace an ethos of personal responsibility and community empowerment before it loses any more young men.

In 2012, black people turned out in force and helped to re-elect Obama. Black people must recognize the power of the vote in more than just national elections. They must be willing to exercise those voices in local elections because local officials control their day-to-day destiny. Black people should stop self-segregating and move out into other areas of the states to offset the gerrymandering that is designed to marginalize their influence. The Brookings Institute found that half of all blacks were located in 60 of the 3,100 counties in America. Republicans are not looking to eliminate black districts they are seeking to eliminate white Democrats. Branching out increases the value and power of the black vote and also reduces over-population in the urban centers.

Black people should then use its voting power to force the legalization of marijuana. Drugs are the most destructive force in the black community. It is responsible for crime, poverty, the destruction of the family and the poor images emanating from the community. Decriminalize marijuana and young men will be able to grow up without the burden of a record they obtained for possession while they were walking or driving down the street.

Education remains the most critical component of upward mobility and black people must take personal responsibility for their education. The quality of schools is no longer a sufficient excuse for not obtaining an education. The internet provides a tool to supplement and complement the lack of resources too often associated with schools in black neighborhoods; however, black people tend to use it far too often for unproductive social media discussions. The school may suck but that is not an excuse for a black kid to flunk. Be the best at a bad school and you will succeed. Black people need to stop tweeting and texting and start reading and writing.

Community empowerment means more than representing your set or throwing a block party. It means investing in the care and upkeep of your community on a year-round basis. Local neighborhood revitalization is a critical step towards reclaiming black communities and empowering its residents. No one wants to live among squalor so why not take it upon yourself to rebuild a storefront, clean a lot, start a garden or paint a park.

Community empowerment also includes investing in black businesses and patronizing local black merchants. It takes more than hair and nail salons, barbershops and liquor stores to rebuild a neighborhood. Black consumer purchasing power is estimated to be close to $1 trillion. It's time black people made sure those purchasing dollars were spent in their own communities.

These are critical times for the black community. Unemployment is skyrocketing, the Supreme Court is rolling back civil rights legislation, and young black boys are still being shot because they wore the wrong set of clothing. Trayvon Martin does not have to have died in vain. His memory can be the catalyst to start a new wave of political activism and an inspiration to take personal responsibility for the development of the black community.

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Frank Hagler

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