Black History Month

A Poet Imagines How Martin Luther King Might Have Mourned Trayvon Martin

"I dreamed of a childhood unburdened by hate."

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If civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr. had spoken at 17-year-old Trayvon Martin's funeral, what might he have said?

That's the subject of a poem by award-winning writer Lauren K. Alleyne which was published in The Atlantic on Monday, the six-year anniversary of Martin's death. The poem was shared across social media as a piece of art imagining how the "I Have A Dream" speaker would have honored a tragic shooting that has turned into a movement of its own.


The poem opens with the following lines:

For you, son, I dreamed a childhood unburdened by hate; a boyhood of adventure— skinned knees and hoops, first loves and small rebellions; I dreamed you whole and growing into your own manhood, writing its definitions with your daily being. I dreamed you alive, living.

After the acquittal of George Zimmerman, the man who fatally shot Martin shortly after the teen purchased a bag of Skittles, a woman encouraged people on Facebook to come together and demonstrate that "Black lives matter." That status, posted by Alicia Garza, spawned the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter which eventually became the organization and movement most Americans are familiar with today, seen by some as a modern continuation of the civil rights movement that King once led. 

In its tribute to Martin, the poem seems to acknowledge that King's work is not yet done: "I had a dream / that my children will one day live / in a nation where they will not be judged / by the color of their skin / but by the content of their character. / Sweet song of my sorrow. / Sweet dream, deferred."

Alleyne was not the only one to honor Martin's memory on Monday.

"Six years ago on this date, #TrayvonMartin was killed," the NAACP posted on Twitter. "May we never forget to #SayHisName."

Hip-hop star Jay-Z also released a trailer for a six-part documentary series on Martin's life. Rest In Power: The Trayvon Martin Story will appear on the paramount network in July. Jay-Z previously produced a series about Kalief Browder, who was imprisoned on Riker's Island without trial for three years. That film helped prompt reform in New York's justice system, and Jay-Z is hoping this will do the same. 

"His name will sit alongside some of the greats whom lost their life to push our culture forward," Jay-Z said of Martin at a Trayvon Martin Foundation event earlier this year. "The Martin Luther Kings, the Gandhis…That's the intention that we set, that his name serves as a beacon of light and hope and push us in a better direction."

Cover photo: Lukas Maverick Greyson /


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