I have listened, watched and read countless reactions pertaining to the Trayvon Martin tragedy from the day of his murder until after the divisive verdict was read in a Florida courtroom.  

I anticipated the uproar that usually follows a high-profile case involving people of different races. The media salivates over the differences in opinion of people, and fuels debates that ultimately lead to more folks purchasing newspapers and watching programs.  

The OJ Simpson and Rodney King cases were the blueprint to facilitate outrage in the community via the media. Everyone and everybody seems to have an opinion on the unpopular Stand Your Ground laws that exist in 20 states, Black on Black murders, President Obama’s dialogue about Trayvon Martin being in his “obvious” likeness, George Zimmerman’s actions that fateful evening and ultimately the six women that delivered the not guilty verdict.

The one piece of evidence that played a pivotal role besides the obvious race factor that has not been discussed thoroughly in the media, and what triggered Zimmerman to consider pursuing and ultimately killing Trayvon Martin, is the hooded sweatshirt he was wearing that night.

The hoodie is as much a part of American culture as t-shirts and apple pie.

Practically every American citizen has worn or at one time or another owned a hoodie in their lifetime. Wearing a hoodie is not a symbol of pending mischief.

Hoodies are usually worn as representation of a school, sports team, super hero, event, music group or a saying that is close to our hearts.

I personally can remember when, where and why I purchased every hooded sweatshirt I ever owned.

My Pittsburgh Westinghouse Bulldogs hoodie was purchased as part of a large order me, my father and brother to sell in Pittsburgh’s Homewood community to restore the pride of our beloved football team of which we were all lettermen and captains along with one of my uncles.

It is faded and worn now, but when I put it on several times a year I feel young and strong again.

I enjoy hearing people shout to me as I walk for exercise, GO HOUSE! It reminds me of my playing days and I’m inspired to continue on my journey to better health.  

My Norfolk State University hoodie is an ode to my college alma mater in Norfolk, Virginia. NSU is a Historically Black College University (HBCU) I chose to attend against the advice of my counselors at ‘The House,’ who had secured full scholarships on my behalf at two fine Pennsylvania institutions of higher learning.  

When I wear my NSU hoodie, I think of my struggles to pay for college and my perseverance to overcome the many obstacles I faced as a young Black man, including being on the wrong end of a gun several times, to graduate cum laude.

In fact, the only way I was able to purchase the hoodie was at the end of my first semester was after I sold my textbooks back to the bookstore, for a small fraction of the money I was granted by NEED to purchase books to begin my college matriculation.

The last hoodie in my ever evolving wardrobe, that is very dear to my heart and I am proud to wear during football season, is my Homewood Bulldogs hoodie. It is a symbol of how far youth sports have come in the community I grew up in.

It represent my two youngest son’s football teams and where I have spent countless hours along with many other good men and women, including my wife, donating our time to make sure young football players and cheerleaders have an organization they can be proud to be a part of. 

We serve approximately 250 kids every evening in the fall from 5-8 p.m. at Willie Stargell Field via our organization, Homewood Community Sports.

It is a beautiful thing on game day to see children, parents and volunteers dressed in Blue, Black and Gold uniforms, T-shirts and hoodies that have been  purchased through fundraising and donations.

It is a symbol of pride in a community that earns its fair share of negative media attention due to the seemingly perpetual violence that has plagued us all for far too many years. It’s almost perceived as if nothing good is in Homewood. Untrue!

Our organization has recently placed our order for T-shirts and hoodies to sell to assist with funding our many needs as many youth organizations across the country do on an annual basis.

With the attention of the nation on the seemingly unjust verdict of the murder of a hoodie wearing young Trayvon Martin, I have to wonder if one of our student athletes will end up being killed by a cop or an overzealous civilian because it was raining, as it has been doing a lot the past few weeks, and they put their hood on their head for cover from the elements, while displaying their Pride.

I also wonder what the hoodie Trayvon Martin was wearing meant to him. Unfortunately, due to that fateful night, we will never know the answer.

What does YOUR hoodie mean to you?



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