Sanford, Florida – On February 26, 2012, an unarmed seventeen year old African American male named Trayvon Martin was shot and killed by a neighborhood watch captain. The captain, George Zimmerman, allegedly felt as though Martin was acting suspiciously and contacted 9-1-1. Zimmerman is said to have followed Martin and, at some point, some type of physical confrontation ensued before police arrived. At this point, Zimmerman shot Martin in what he has cited as self-defense. While there are still a number of unanswered questions, one thing is true…the public is demanding answers.
Holy Culture had the opportunity to speak with DJ Wade-O about Trayvon Martin and social justice. Wade-O recently appeared in a video entitled, “Trayvon Martin PSA”. The video speaks for itself:
HC: George Zimmerman has officially been charged with 2nd degree murder. If he is ultimately cleared of this charge (not guilty), what does it say about our criminal justice system? Should self-defense laws become more scrutinized?
Wade-O: Regardless of the outcome though, the Florida “Stand Your Ground” laws, as well those in other states should be examined more closely. Yes, we should be able to defend ourselves if necessary, but only in the most extreme cases should self-defense result in murder.
HC: George Zimmerman has now created his own website (http://therealgeorgezimmerman.com). On every page is the quote by Edmund Burke which reads, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil, is that good men do nothing.” Was Zimmerman wrong in calling the police because he believed a person to be ‘suspicious’?
Wade-O: In theory? No. There is no harm in protecting your home and/ or community. As men, we’re actually called to do that. The question we’ve raised though, is what made Trayvon suspicious and why did George Zimmerman continue to follow a suspicious person after the 911 operator told you that it was not necessary to continue following him?
HC: There are still a lot of unanswered questions. Are people moving too quickly on both sides without first knowing all the facts?
Wade-O: Yes. The racial aspect of this has brought in a lot of emotion and caused many to form strong opinions about Zimmerman’s motives and guilt. Many have convicted him already, which is wrong. While others have pronounced George Zimmerman innocent without acknowledging that the police, until public pressure intervened, weren’t as thorough in their investigation as they should have been. The bottom line is everyone must realize that the facts are still being gathered and George Zimmerman hasn’t been tried in court. Like everyone else, he deserves the right to a fair trial.
HC: Earlier this year, you were apart of a video called the “Trayvon Martin PSA”. Filmmakers from Newark, NJ gathered thirty males to lend their voice to speak out on the Trayvon Martin case and the way black males are perceived in the media and society. What are the goals of the video? What kind of response has it received so far?
Wade-O: A good friend of mine and fellow member of my church, Pierre Coleman of Solid Brick Entertainment, wrote, directed and produced the piece and asked me to be a part of it. The goal was to bring light to the negative perceptions and stereotypes that many have towards African-American males and replace them with reality. We’ve received tremendous feedback thus far. Many have applauded. Some have said they have repented from the sin of racism because of it. Yet you’ve had others who said we shouldn’t have done it. The negative critics basically proved our point thru their reasoning that Trayvon Martin was a “drug-using junkie who deserved to die.” Clearly there has been no evidence presented publicly to suggest that he was a junkie or that he acted in such a manner that death was the only recourse. All of those responses confirmed to us that the message we were trying to convey needs to keep being promoted and developed.
HC: In discussing the often times negative perception of black males, especially those who are younger, in the media and society, where is the answer found? Should black males go out of their way to break the stereotypes or should the beholder be required to change their outlook?
Wade-O: Great question. The responsibility lies on both parties. While people shouldn’t judge me as suspicious because I have a hoodie on, I must also realize that there will be people who may treat me a certain way if I do wear one. African-Americans can’t have it both ways though. We can’t portray ourselves as thugs, gangstas, pimps and the like in our music videos, movies and other media, and then get upset that society has adopted the image of us that we are willingly projecting on screen. I’m actually a part of a non-profit organization founded by Chris Broussard of ESPN fame called K.I.N.G. that seeks to combat those negative stereotypes and redefine the image of the black male. So to get back to your question, yes, everyone has to change some things.
HC: Should it be on the shoulders of Christians to fight for social justice? If so, to what extent?
Wade-O: Absolutely. It’s modeled throughout the bible. One of the best examples is Nehemiah. Rebuilding the city so that his people could protect themselves and re-organize was 100% social justice. Yet, the desire to do this was under girded by his religious beliefs. Even Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan is an illustration of social justice. As believers, our motto should be if “I’ve got it, you’ve got it.” That’s Acts 2:42-47 all day. That should span across time, talent, resources, ability and even platform.
HC: Why pick up the banner against injustice now? What is so different about this one versus all of the injustices of the same type we see almost on a weekly basis.
Wade-O: This isn’t the first time I have spoken out about injustice since the Lord has given me a platform. The first “social justice” issue I covered on The Wade-O Radio Show was during Episode 18 of our podcast. We discussed domestic violence and featured an interview with a Christian woman who killed her husband in self-defense. Shortly after that, in Episode 21, we covered the Virginia Tech murders of 2007 and have continued to do several other “Social justice” type shows throughout the years. These have included entire shows covering the aftermath of the major Haiti earthquake and even the election of our first African-American President, Barack Obama.
In addition, I’ve also participated in anti-violence marches in my community, contributed to local education reform town halls and raised money thru my ministry for The Willing Heart Community Care Center in my city, Newark, NJ.
Plus, on top of this, Trayvon Martin has been unequivocally the number one topic of discussion in my local community during the past 4-5 weeks. I’ve just been intentional about sharing that local discussion with my international audience. In my heart, I’m disingenuous if I don’t talk about it.
HC: How far, should we as a Christian community, go to support this – – what would success look like?
Wade-O: I think there are at least three measures of success in this situation. First, we’re successful if we can get people to closely look at how they treat others who look or dress differently than they do and make the appropriate heart and behavioral changes in their approach. Secondly, we’re successful if true justice is executed in this situation based on what the facts warrant. Finally, we’re successful if the “Stand Your Ground” laws are reexamined and changed if need be.
There is a lot at stake here. Based on the progress that has already been made however, we’ve achieved initial levels of success. I’m not sure we’ve achieved the ultimate goal in either of those scenarios though. We need to keep fighting
HC: How do you personally feel about the potential impacts this could have for you (e.g. repercussions at work, etc.)?
Wade-O: I try not to look at it like that. If I did, I probably wouldn’t be as outspoken as I am about this given that I am in vocational ministry and self-employed. That said, I know this isn’t popular. This is tough. This is not just playing a dope record by Lecrae and mixing it with a Thi’sl joint or interviewing Viktory, Trip Lee or Rhema Soul about their new albums. We are asking people to really examine their hearts and potentially change. This impacts race relations. This impacts politics. We’re even impacting economics. I’ve already received some backlash, hate mail, as well as letters of concern and phone calls about my stance. In my heart though, I believe this is a cause worth fighting for and the diversity of my audience as well as the burden on my heart, make this a torch I need to help carry. Too much is at stake.
HC: Are you concerned that the Christian and / or African American community might do the same as it did after Katrina and other instances – – fold up and sort of loose it’s steam?
Wade-O: That’s always a possibility. All I can do as one in the media is continue to educate people, bring to light these situations and encourage people to stand up for what’s right.
About DJ Wade-O
DJ Wade-O is a New Jersey-based DJ, Radio Host/Producer and blogger who loves Jesus. He hosts a weekly podcast, The Wade-O Radio Show, that has been downloaded over a million times. You may contact Wade at http://www.wadeoradio.com.
Interview by Ben “Godside” Lippens. Follow him on Twitter (@GodsideJCC) or holler at him on Facebook.