500 rally in Winston-Salem in support of Trayvon Martin

Nicole Little clasps hands with Darryl Hunt while Larry Little looks on during a rally to support Trayvon Martin.
Nicole Little, a recent Wake Forest graduate, shared the bed of a pickup truck as a stage with Larry Little (no relation), a former Black Panther and former Winston-Salem councilman, and Darryl Hunt, a man who was wrongfully convicted for the murder of a white newspaper editor as hundreds gathered on a grassy hillside in East Winston to demonstrate support for Trayvon Martin.

Larry Little speaks, Winston Mutual building in back
"I have nieces, I have nephews, I have friends, I have colleagues, whomever it may be — and this could be any one of you all," Nicole Little said. "Any one of you all. And that's the message that we're trying to stress today. At the height of this trial I saw so many people talking so much, had so many opinions to say on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. The memes were out of control. I asked myself: How can we make this work? Social media is a powerful measure. Very powerful. Everybody has something on their phone where they're able to reach a thousand people with the click of a button. Do you know how powerful that is?"

Little decided to organize the rally on Sunday morning and began mobilizing friends and colleagues through social media.

"It's okay to post a status," she said. "It's okay to black out your profile. It's okay to do all of that. But if we take that social media presence and translate it into something physical, we could make a difference in Winston-Salem and all across the United States. Don't let nobody tell you different."

Larry Walters (in striped shirt) attended with his son.
Larry Little drew a comparison between Martin, an unarmed black teenager who was shot by a neighborhood watch volunteer, and Emmett Till, who was murdered by a white lynch mob in the 1950s in a case that resulted in no convictions.

"In 1954, in Money, Mississippi, a young, black male, Emmett Till was brutally murdered because he dared to talk to a white woman," Little said. "He was brutally murdered. He was given a railroad of a trial.... An all-white jury found these murderers not guilty of killing Emmett Till. Last Saturday, essentially an all-white jury in Sanford, Florida found George Zimmerman not guilty of murdering Trayvon Martin."

Little said Till's death inspired the civil rights movement.

"This is your modern-day Emmett Till struggle," he said. "An old head like me has more yesterdays than tomorrows. It's about you, the youth, the future and the young at heart.

Protesters lined Martin Luther King Jr. Drive
"Often, when we got successful as a people we moved out of our community, out into the suburbs, or whatever you want to call it," Little continued. "Trayvon wasn't in the 'hood; he was in a gated community. He wasn't safe because he was black. He was killed by George Zimmerman, tracked down and killed like a dog."

Larry Walter brought his 9-year-old son, Jalen Laughlin, to the rally.

"I just feel like the system failed us," Walter said. "Someone killed someone and got away with it. Point blank."

Tony Caldwell was one of many people discussing the verdict in numerous small conversations that took place at the rally.

Dee Jackson (wearing pink dress) posed with friends.
"Given the verdict of not guilty, it showed me just where we are in terms of being citizens — I'm talking about black men," he said. "A young man who was coming home from a store minding his own business and was followed by a stranger, I would have reacted the same way. There would probably have been a confrontation. To get a not-guilty verdict, it's hurtful. It lit a fire in me, and it lit a fire in me and all these people here. We've got to get these laws changed."

The program included not only speeches, but also poetry and freedom songs, including "We Who Believe in Freedom" with the refrain and verse: "We who believe in freedom cannot rest/ We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes/ Until the killing of black men, black mothers' sons/ Is as important as the killing of white men, white mothers' sons."

Lenee Fair brought her nephew, Nehemiah Dalton.
Councilman Derwin Montgomery, who represents the East Ward, connected the Trayvon Martin case to the story of Jordan Davis, another 17-year-old Florida teenager who was killed by an adult.

"He was shot and he was killed in his car because they said that the music was too loud," Montgomery said. "They said he had a shotgun, but when they investigated there was no shotgun in the car. There was another young, black male dead because someone thought his life was not as valuable as somebody else's. We have to come together as a community to say that we stand for justice, we speak up for justice and we ensure that his voice will not end here."

Jimmy Boyd, a former president of the Winston-Salem NAACP, said the gathering reminded him of the 1960s.

"I don't see a lot of people with silver and gray here; it's young folks," he said. "That's powerful. I wish we could see these lines of people at the ballot box. I wish we could see them in meetings."

The crowd swelled to about 500 as the evening wore on, and people fanned out along both sides of Martin Luther King Jr. Drive between New Walkertown Road and East 5th Street, standing about six deep on the sidewalk and in the yard of an apartment row.

The atmosphere was both festive and determined as demonstrators lined the street, cheering wildly as departing protesters blared car horns in a cacophony of solidarity and young men zoomed by on motorbikes.

"No justice, no peace," they chanted.

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