How the Trayvon Martin Case Went Viral, With the Help of Hip-Hop and Twitter


It was April 29, 1992 and the city of Los Angeles was in complete disarray. The entire black community had taken its last pimp slap to the face, and the reaction to the vivid abuse was pure anger and destruction. After four white police officers were acquitted of charges for the beating of African-American Rodney King, the city went haywire, breaking out into riots which left 53 dead, nearly 3,000 injured, and a trail of damage adding up to over $1 billion. 

Fast forward 20 years, and instead of a grown man being the icon of racial tension, the symbol is now a young boy who wasn’t even yet legal, Trayvon Martin. In 1992, media coverage was nowhere near what it is now, so most of the black community’s education on social issues came from hip-hop artists. Now we get breaking news alerts sent straight to our smart phones. Cities and towns across America held protests to show their support for the young boy, who instantly became a part of our families. We all let our voices be heard, expressing our opinion about how 28-year-old George Zimmerman seemed to receive a free pass from the Sanford, Florida Police Department. 

Everybody, including President Obama, had a thing or two to say about the case, but it was the hip-hop community and social networks that made Trayvon Martin such a viral phenomenon.

From tweets to rap songs, the hip-hop community cried out in an unprecedented way against George Zimmerman. Rapper Plies wrote a song titled “We are Trayvon” which he initially released only as a YouTube video, but after 363,000 views and 2,500 downloads (all proceeds go to the Justice for Trayvon Martin Foundation), the song has become one of many anthems for Trayvon, his family, and our generation. 

During a recent Plies concert in Fort Lauderdale, the crowd yelled for an hour and a half before the rapper finally went ahead and performed the song (this was his first time performing the song live).  In addition, Jasiri X released the song, “Trayvon” and Reef the Lost Cauze released a song called, “The Prey (For Trayvon Martin).”  

Jasiri X rips Kanye and Jay-Z’s “No Church in the Wild,” as he depicts the events of that cool February night. Reef the Lost Cauze incorporates an absolutely intoxicating beat with some of the realest lyrics ever spoken, saying that “I ain’t write this to capitalize … I wrote this cause I’m a father and this like that was my child.” 

Along with big names and famous faces, it is the average Americans who are keeping the Trayvon Movement alive. With the help of Facebook, Twitter, and other social media outlets, people from all walks of life, especially young people, are forming rallies, posting comments, and are making sure that they’re seen with their hoodies on and their skittles held high. From college campuses to small towns, the world is talking about Trayvon Martin and are using hashtag #Trayvon to do it. Had it not been for social media and the strong support system, who’s to say that George Zimmerman wouldn’t still be at home hanging out on his couch?

The arrest of George Zimmerman is only the beginning of justice for Trayvon and his family. No matter how you sugarcoat it, this is still a case of racial profiling that’s using the Stand Your Ground Law as a scapegoat for a Barney Fife wanna-be. Even though there are clearly race issues here, this goes beyond race. This isn’t just about Trayvon; this is about our future as young people and our future as Americans.