The Story Goes On For Trayvon Martin's Hometown
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
From Tulsa, we move our focus back to the city of Sanford, Florida, where Trayvon Martin, an unarmed African-American teen, was shot and killed six weeks ago by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman. The constant spotlight has brought the issue of race to the forefront, and with it some tense moments in that Florida community. NPR's Kathy Lohr spent the last week in Sanford and has this story.
KATHY LOHR, BYLINE: Residents in the historically black neighborhood of Goldsboro say the issues surrounding the Trayvon Martin case are not new, including mistrust of the local police, unsolved crimes and racial profiling. This is the city where Jackie Robinson was run out of town in the spring of 1946 when he tried to break baseball's color barrier. At the 13th Street Barber Shop, a longtime community business, retired nurse Beverly Herron gets her hair cut ahead of the holiday weekend.
BEVERLY HERRON: That child should not have to die for this. This should have been done years ago.
LOHR: Herron says problems have been hidden for too long. She's relieved that federal and state authorities are investigating.
HERRON: They should keep it going on forever, until it gets some kind of justice. Forever - as long as it takes.
LOHR: Outside the barber shop, Tim Irvin is wearing a Trayvon T-shirt. He's incensed.
TIM IRVIN: I figure the whole world can see what's finally going on now, what's been going on in Sanford.
LOHR: Irvin says people here are on edge waiting to hear whether the state prosecutor will bring charges against the shooter, George Zimmerman, who claims he killed the teen in self-defense.
IRVIN: And those signs that they're holding up saying No Justice No Peace, that's exactly what it's going to be if we don't get no justice.
TURNER CLAYTON: The community was already at a boiling point. This was just the tip of the iceberg that kind of made it boil over.
LOHR: Turner Clayton, the local president of the NAACP, has appealed for patience and calm in this town of about 53,000 people.
CLAYTON: There has to be charges. If for some reason that does not happen, I would hate to think what could possibly happen in this community.
LOHR: A few miles away in the renovated downtown Sanford business district, red brick streets and storefronts shimmer on this spring afternoon that feels like summer. Here too, the Trayvon Martin shooting is also raising concerns about the future of this town. Theo Hollerbach owns a German restaurant called the Willow Tree Cafe and he says the shooting and the protests here have made him think about the issue of race.
THEO HOLLERBACH: It really got to me and it made me realize that, you know, some of the points of view I have that I didn't even see and it made me reevaluate how I look at things.
LOHR: Hollerbach insists Sanford is not a bad place. He says all the businesses here are also concerned about the economic impact. Reservations were cancelled and tourists were staying away, but now, business is picking up again. Next door, Jeanine Taylor owns a folk art gallery. She says half of the artists she represents are African-American.
JEANINE TAYLOR: We support standing up for what has happened to Trayvon and wanting to make things right.
LOHR: But she worries she can't. Taylor says many outsiders and some in the media have unfairly portrayed the city.
TAYLOR: We can't seem to do anything to make things better, the community as a whole. And no matter what the outcome, there are going to be some people that are outraged and should be, and so that makes for more discomfort and worry.
LOHR: Taylor and others are working on a community project called Hand in Hand. Over the next few weeks, children and adults will be tracing the outline of their hands on cardboard and writing positive messages on them. The plan is for the hands to be displayed across the city. Kathy Lohr, NPR News, Sanford, Florida. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.