The University of Utah kicks off its week-long Martin Luther King Junior celebration Thursday with an appearance by Sybrina Fulton, mother of Trayvon Martin, who was shot and killed in Florida almost two years ago. The U’s theme this year is “Beneath the Hoodie: A Look at Racial Profiling in America”.
Since George Zimmerman was acquitted of Trayvon Martin’s murder last summer, Martin’s mother has spoken against the controversial ruling and worked to raise awareness of racial profiling. Fulton has been invited to speak at the University of Utah, but the U’s Director of Ethnic Studies Ed Munoz says it’s not about re-examining the verdict or taking sides.
“Yes, it was a controversial decision what happened in the courts, but I don’t think that’s really what we’re here to debate,” Munoz says. “ I think it’s, how can we talk about these issues in a constructive manner, and to ensure the safety of all individuals, and to have a more equitable law enforcement system, as well as a legal system and penal system.”
Munoz says this year’s theme “Beneath the Hoodie” is intended to focus on issues that are relevant to youth and the U’s student population. On the schedule is a discussion about the damaging effects of racial profiling and how to combat it. Included in the panel is Salt Lake City Police Chief Chris Burbank. The keynote address will be delivered by Marc Lamont Hill, a leading hip-hop generation intellectual. He works with African American and Latino youth through a literacy project he started using hip hop culture to increase school engagement. Hill’s academic work has covered racial profiling and the so-called war on youth.