Trayvon Martin. Remember him? A lot has transpired in the world since the 17-year-old was shot and killed by George Zimmerman but the case against his killer is not over — attorneys for both sides are still filing pre-trial motions and a hearing on the “stand your ground” self-defense immunity has yet to occur. The impact that Martin’s death has had on communities across the country is not over either, with many young people, people of color, and others donning hoodies of their own in solidarity with the teen whose own hoodie was cited as cause for suspicion and likelihood of guilt. In the days and weeks after Martin’s death, everyone from Howard University Law School students and representatives of Congress wore their hoodies. Today, the deep meaning and symbolism of a person of color in a hoodie is being carried right into the voting booth by a grassroots movement called Hoodie Vote.
Hoodie Vote is a non-partisan movement seeking to mobilize people to wear their hoodies to the polls on Election Day. “It’s not about capitalizing on something tragic, we want to turn tragedy into triumph,” said Trell Thomas, Hoodie Vote co-founder and national coordinator. “It’s another opportunity to send a message that while some thought we were robbing, killing, stealing, and looking ‘suspicious’ in our hoodies, we are out here working, making a difference, and changing the world in our hoodies.”
Personally, I like to go to the polls slightly dressed up. Even though I’m most likely to only see neighbors and local volunteers at my polling place, it makes me feel like I’m giving the franchise the due deference it deserves, along with honoring those who came before me and made voting as a woman and an African-American possible. But I dig what Hoodie Vote is trying to do, building on the energy and spirit that emerged after Martin’s death and channel that toward civic engagement. It looks like it may be working too, Hoodie Vote is already on more than 50 college campuses and in cities nationwide. Just last week I saw two guys rocking Hoodie Vote clothing around Brooklyn and many more are uploading pics and stories on an open Tumblr called Vote in my Hoodie.
While you can order a Hoodie Vote sweatshirt for $20, the movement’s organizers are clear that they are reaping no profits from the sales. Monies made will go into producing more hoodies and distributing them to students, community groups, and celebrities who can use their notoriety to spread the word. Folks are also encouraged to make their own hoodies and the Hoodie Vote design is available for free on the website.
No matter what you wear to the polls on Tuesday, just be sure to vote. If you’ve voted early or absentee, you can still rock a hoodie on Election Day to join in the movement. If this presidential campaign season has taught us anything, it’s that optics matter. I can already envision the demonstration of young people across the country casting their ballots in hoodies, participating in two of the things that helped make this country great, the democratic vote and organizing by the people. In one fell swoop we can continue the momentum sparked by Trayvon Martin’s death and make an impact on the lives of young people and people of color for years to come.
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