DORCHESTER (CBS) – The White House Briefing Room is a long way from the Dorchester Youth Collaborative in Fields Corner, but as President Barack Obama spoke about race and the Trayvon Martin verdict, the teens at the clubhouse, felt like he was speaking directly with them.
“He wants to let us know that he can hear us. He does know where we came from because he’s African American as well,” said Jakari.
Friday, the president made a very personal and unexpected statement about the Trayvon Martin case and why so many African Americans were deeply hurt and frustrated by the fact that George Zimmerman was acquitted of any wrongdoing in the young black teen’s death.
Obama spoke about his own experiences as a black man in America in discussing the lens through which many African Americans view the case.
“There are very few African American men who haven’t had the experience of being followed when they were shopping in a department store. That includes me,” the President said.
Four teens at the Dorchester Youth Collaborative sat down to watch the speech with WBZ-TV. Jakari, Zahquira, Damone and Seabron could relate to the President’s message.
‘There’s been a few times that I’ve walked into a store and be followed around by somebody at the store,” Seabron shared.
Zahquira said many Americans failed to see Trayvon as one of their own children. “That could have been someone in my family and a lot of people don’t think of it like that,” she said.
All four teens had followed the Zimmerman case closely. Damone understands the verdict, but he questions the laws. He was grateful the president also advocated taking a closer look at the message sent by “stand your ground laws.”
“It shows the president is on the same page as us. That he understands there was no justice done in this,” Damone said.
President Obama also spoke of the need to educate law enforcement about the dangers of racial profiling and to make sure young black men are receiving encouragement and positive reinforcement.
Protests are scheduled throughout the country this weekend. The President called for peaceful demonstrations, saying violence would only dishonor Trayvon’s memory and his parents’ loss.
Jakari believes many members of his family will march for justice this weekend. Though he has felt the hurt and disappointment that has reverberated in the black community in the wake of the Zimmerman verdict, Jakari also sees reason for hope.
“A lot of things change if people could just look into the situation more than they have.”