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Boston’s black leaders encouraged by criminal charges in Trayvon Martin killing

Black leaders in the Boston community reacted with tempered approval Wednesday after authorities criminally charged neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman in the February killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla.

In a national press conference Wednesday evening, Florida special prosecutor Angela Corey announced that Zimmerman was in custody and will be tried on a charge of second-degree murder.

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“We did not come to this decision lightly,’’ said Corey. “We will continue to seek the truth.’’

Michael Curry, president of the Boston branch of the NAACP, was happy to see some judicial movement in Martin’s case.

“I think there has been an appropriate reaction to’’ Martin’s case, Curry said. “The media has generated an awareness of this that it wouldn’t originally have. Thank God for that.

“Whether it’s holding Skittles up, or putting hoodies on, people can relate to this young man who lost his life.’’

Curry said that the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People believes Martin was slain because of a stereotype that resulted in the series of events that led to the teenager’s death, he said.

“Trayvon will now potentially have his day in court, which is all we were asking,’’ Curry said.

Curry also believes Martin’s killing sent a ripple effect across the country, which he hoped would result in a honest conversation about profiling and racial justice.

The Rev. Jeffrey Brown, executive director of Boston TenPoint Coalition, said he, too, believed that the national conversation stirred up by the case has been a positive development.

“I wish this could have been done differently; on the other hand I’m glad it brings up this conversation of race and racial justice,’’ Brown said. “It’s a complex case and I hope the nation is ready to have it. I know I am.’’

Brown has mixed feelings about Zimmerman’s charge of second-degree murder.

“On one hand, we have another step in the judicial process,’’ he said. “On the other, it has taken the protests of tens of thousands, and a national campaign of outrage in order for this to occur.’’

The Rev. Eugene Rivers III, cofounder of TenPoint Coalition and director of Ella J. Baker House, agreed that the decision to charge Zimmerman was good in a judicial sense but that there was a far bigger issue at stake.

“The more important issue is the problem of black-on-black violence,’’ said Rivers. “How might we be discussing how this would be if Zimmerman was black? How might this be different? This is going to be political theater for a while.’’

Because Zimmerman is a white Hispanic, he said, Martin’s killing became a celebrity case.

Amid the discussion of numerous possible outcomes in the case, the local activists agreed that the killing could continue a conversation leading toward a better community.

“If this doesn’t bring an honest discussion about race and how we must find ways to live better together, I don’t know what will,’’ Brown said.

Derek J. Anderson can be reached at
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