Trayvon Martin and Shaima Alawadi Murders Spur Rallies at UC Irvine

Trayvon Martin was walking back to his gated community in Sanford, Florida when volunteer watch guard George Zimmerman shot and killed the unarmed teen. The incident has sparked a national debate on whether race played a role in the killing of the 17-year-old black teen. Less than a month later, Iraqi immigrant Shaima Alawadi was found beaten to death in her own home with a note that read, “Go back to your country,” according to her 17-year-old daughter.

Thousands of people across the country have marched in solidarity protests with the Martin family. But here in Orange County, which has always had an embarrassingly tiny African-American community, we're going to get our first rallies in the coming weeks. As for Alawadi, her case has garnered less public outcry, partly because authorities haven't definitively ruled it as a hate crime, and even family members haven't jumped to that conclusion. Some people, however, say that both cases are similar—the victims were killed because of their appearance.

That line of thinking has led to “National Day of Action for Shaima and Trayvon” day of protests that college students will hold on their respective campuses next Wednesday, April 11, with UC Irvine among them. Students and professors at UCI are also organizing two other events solely focused on Trayvon's death.

Tomorrow, UCI's Black Student Union will hold a silent rally from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the flagpole near the Langson Library. According to the Facebook event page, this “event goes beyond Trayvon, this event is for the countless nameless Black bodies that have been slain. This is a response to the systems and structures that allow this continuous death of Black bodies worldwide.” Participants are asked to “wear all black for unity.”

The following week, a speakout is scheduled for April 10. Co-organizer and African-American Studies Professor Dr. Tiffany Willoughby-Herard says the goal is to “historicize the tragic murder of Trayvon Martin. “People are saying things like we're not sure this has to do with race and it's about a young person,” she said. “It's about race in a profound way…there is a recorded disparity in the difference between the way policing agencies respond to youth of color and other kinds of youth.”

Toward that end, Dr. Herard and her colleague, Asian-American Studies Professor Dr. Claire Kim, will hold the speakout in the Dr. White Room at the Cross Cultural Center on campus. The list of speakers include half a dozen professors with expertise in black politics, policing, the history of slavery and racial vigilantism.

“We hope to provide a space for students to reflect in an informed way about the emotional toll and the social meaning of these recurring incidents,” said Dr. Herard.

The following day after the speak out, third-year political science major Nuha Abusamra will hold a vigil remembering Trayvon and Shaima as part of the “hoodie and hijab” rallies organized on the same day at various universities. The vigil will also take place at the flagpole.

“Both of these innocent victims suffered in the name of hatred,” wrote Nuha on the Facebook event page.

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