Black leaders warn against Florida ‘Stand Your Ground’ boycott

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Jacarrio Williams, 10, protests the George Zimmerman verdict at Mellon Park on July 14, 2013 in Sanford, Florida. Yesterday Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, was found not guilty of murder in the February 2012 shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Jacarrio Williams, 10, protests the George Zimmerman verdict at Mellon Park on July 14, 2013 in Sanford, Florida. Yesterday Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, was found not guilty of murder in the February 2012 shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

In response to the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, many have pushed for a boycott of Florida in disapproval of the state’s “Stand Your Ground” law.

The law allows a person to use deadly force without any requirement to retreat when there is a belief of an unlawful threat against them.

According to April D. Ryan, a White House correspondent for American Urban Radio Networks, there is a growing list of celebrities who have joined this initiative to boycott Florida until the “Stand your Ground” law is overturned.

With many promoters and event organizers in preparation for upcoming concerts and festivals in the state, this could have a tremendous impact on the guest and line-up participation.

The Jazz in the Gardens festival held every year in the city of Miami Gardens hosts some of the most prominent celebrities in the music industry. Circle of One Marketing CEO Suzan McDowell has been involved in the creation of the annual Jazz in the Gardens festival since its inception in 2006. She understands the sentiments behind the boycotting of Florida. However, she believes that the threat of boycotting an event like Jazz in the Gardens does more harm than good for the Miami Gardens community.

“Trayvon Martin is from the city of Miami Gardens and the city of Miami Gardens produces and owns Jazz in the Gardens, which is the same city that Trayvon was born and raised in,” McDowell stated, “To me it would seem a little ridiculous for people to punish the city that Trayvon was born in in order to support Trayvon.”

With over 70 percent of the residents of Miami Gardens being African-American, McDowell doesn’t see the relevance in boycotting the largest black city in the state of Florida.

“The festival is produced by a black city, the city that Trayvon was from, so boycott anywhere else in the state [of] Florida other than Miami Gardens [because] you’re screwing over the wrong people,” McDowell concluded.

Miami Gardens mayor Oliver Gilbert III believes that regardless of a boycott the city will continue to do the best that they can to provide an excellent show for the 2014 Jazz in the Gardens.

“Trayvon is a part of our city. This isn’t just a concert … this is us. This is something we do to bring people into our city. We want to show people our homes; to show people Trayvon’s home; the city where he lived. I think it would be tragic if a boycott ensues from this extraordinary bad verdict, “ Gilbert III stated.

April D. Ryan has recently released a statement proclaiming that several representatives of the artists named who say, on behalf of their clients, that they are uncomfortable being identified on that list and are seeking additional information.

Although Jay Z and Justin Timberlake are on the list of celebrities alleging to boycott the state of Florida, representatives of Sun Life Stadium state that the “ Legends of Summer” concert scheduled for August 16th in Miami Gardens will not be cancelled.

The National Association of Black Journalists organization is scheduled to hold their annual convention in Orlando, Florida at the end of this July. While many participants have joined the boycott and will not attend, NABJ president Gregory Lee Jr. discourages the idea of boycotting this convention.

In a recent statement, Lee Jr. stated that it would be “impractical and costly and fail to take advantage of a ‘unique opportunity’ for black journalists.”

The NABJ convention plans to go on as scheduled from July 31st – August 4th.

VisitFlorida, the official tourism agency for the state of Florida, was not available for comment.

Wanjira Banfield writes about travel and entertainment for theGrio. You can find her at  www.wanjirasworld.com and follow her on Twitter @wanjirasworld.