City where Trayvon Martin died seeks racial injustice reform

SANFORD, Fla. (AP) — Commissioners in the city where Black teenager Trayvon Martin was killed by a neighborhood watch volunteer nine years ago Friday have agreed to form an advisory committee to study how race, class and gender can lead to social inequities.

The 15-member “Race, Equality, Equity and Inclusion” group will be made up of residents, people who work in Sanford and business owners, the Orlando Sentinel reported.

The committee “will be charged with taking a look at racial tension within the city and how the disparities in services, public and private, impact people of color more than they do their white counterparts,” Andrew Thomas, Sanford’s community relations and neighborhood engagement director, said during a recent commission meeting.

They’re being asked to deliver a report detailing its findings to the city commission in about eight months. The group will make recommendations on improving inequities that may exist in Sanford, including within governmental services related to housing, healthcare, education, criminal justice and employment, the newspaper reported.

Martin, who lived in Miami, was visiting his father when he was shot Feb. 26, 2012, during a confrontation with George Zimmerman, who has a white father and Hispanic mother, while walking home from a convenience store. Zimmerman claimed self-defense and was later acquitted during a jury trial. Martin’s death helped lead to the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement in 2013.

A resolution approved by commissioners Feb. 22 said: “The city of Sanford recognizes racism and social inequities unfairly disadvantages specific individuals and communities and saps the strength of the whole society through the waste of human resources. The collective prosperity of the City depends upon the equitable access to opportunity for every resident regardless of the color of their skin or social status.”

The 125-year-old city has a history of racial tensions, with weeks of protests erupting following Martin’s death. About one-third of Sanford’s 60,000 residents are Black. Today, two of the city’s commissioners, the police chief and city manager are Black.

Commissioner Sheena Britton, a Black woman elected in June, hopes for action rather than talk.

“It’s really important that we have a board like this,” said Britton. “But I want to make sure that it leads to something being implemented. That it leads to some change.”

The city will provide the committee with up to $35,000 to pay for technical assistance, conducting surveys and other costs. The group will work with the National League of Cities’ Race, Equity and Leadership program, and the Peace and Justice Institute at Valencia College, the newspaper reported.

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