Using human tragedy as pathway to personal empowerment - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

Using human tragedy as pathway to personal empowerment

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (FOX13) -

The reaction to the not guilty verdict in the George Zimmerman murder trial has run the gamut this week from shock to anger to soul-searching.

But while we can't change history the event can become a springboard for ideas on how to improve race relations, the justice system, and everyday social interactions.

As news spread of the jury's acquittal of Zimmerman for the killing of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin on Saturday evening, social networks and cable channels buzzed with heated reactions.

Dr. Viktor Frankl once said when we are no longer able to change a situation. We are challenged to change ourselves.
It's no secret that the Zimmerman trial's verdict has caused some serious uproar. From riots to public denouncements - including a statement from President Barack Obama - everyone has something to say about the jury's decision.

But when tweeting and Facebooking only goes so far, and people want a stronger, more public way to express their displeasure once the protests stop. The question must be asked, what can we do?

"We've got the greatest legal system in the world but it's not perfect," said Memphis Councilman Lee Harris. "There are going to be travesties of justice and that's what we have in this case."

Councilmen Harris and Harold Collins agree getting involved politically is one way to take action.

"The murder of Trayvon Martin is a result of pretty generous gun laws," Harris said. "We've got pretty generous gun laws in Memphis, Tenn. One of things we can do is try to rein in some of the very expansive gun laws."

Tennessee's State Constitution Self Defense laws reads "A person who is not engaged in unlawful activity and is in a place where the person has a right to be has *no duty to retreat* before threatening or using force intended or likely to cause death or serious bodily injury, if the person has a reasonable belief that there is an imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury."

It's a mirror resemblance to Florida's Stand Your Ground law, which states a person may justifiably use force in self defense when there is reasonable belief of an unlawful threat, without an obligation to retreat first. This is the controversial law used in Zimmerman's defense.

"The most critical vote is when we have these State House and State Senator elections cause that's where the laws are written to govern individual states," Councilman Collins said.

"I'd like to see folks put pressure on their state legislators also pressure on their federal legislators to do something about gun violence in the prevalence of guns in the community," Councilman Harris added.

State elections aren't for another year and while it is important to challenge our government to change the laws, the most significant transformation derives from the strength in our community, an idea stressed by Memphis NAACP President Keith Norman.

"I believe we can find the time to volunteer to educate the general public on one another," Norman said. "We need to pay close attention to coalitions that brings people together. Mid-South Peace Justice, NAACP and other organizations that tear down walls to help foster understanding of humility and not perpetuate stereotypes."

Change comes when we place ourselves in a position to effect the world around us. Councilman Collins especially challenges students to stand up and command effective change.

"Go to college, come back home, service your community, run for office," he said. "Make changes to these laws that adversely effect the majority of the people in this country. That can be something we can take forward and say that was a result of Trayvon."

Change comes when we place ourselves in a position to effect the world around us. It only requires the desire and the will to act.

Zimmerman cleared in shooting of Trayvon Martin

Young Memphians hold peace rally for Trayvon

Cohen calls for DOJ action following Zimmerman verdict

Zimmerman case discussed with Memphis students


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