Commentary Strange Fruit

Three years ago this week, a Florida jury found George Zimmerman not guilty of the murder of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. Like many people across the country, we were stunned, and saddened at the loss of life and lack of justice. We asked Lucie Brooks to join us in the studio that week, and help us analyze the cases presented by both the prosecution and defense, and what may have lead to the not-guilty verdict.

Lucie taught us about jury demographics and how they affect trial outcomes (Zimmerman’s jury was made up of five white women and one Puerto Rican woman). And we also talked about something more personal: Lucie’s experiences as the white mom of four black sons.

Just over a year later, a police officer shot and killed 18-year-old Michael Brown, in Ferguson, Missouri. Protests sprung up in the neighborhood, and the police responded with curfews and riot squads. International media descended on the St. Louis suburb.

We thought surely things would change. Police departments would implement extra training about de-escalation, internal biases, and use of force. All the attention on Ferguson would bring change. The Black Lives Matter movement, formed in the wake of the Zimmerman verdict, was galvanized.

At that time, we spoke to now-Representative-elect Attica Scott, about the interplay between police departments, local governments, and their communities. Like Lucie, she spoke about raising black sons.

Now, three years later, Philando Castille and Alton Sterling were both shot by police, in different cities, just days apart. They became the latest in what seems like an unending cycle of shootings, administrative leave, hashtags, protests, and acquittals. We’re listening back to parts of our conversations with Attica and Lucie this week, since they are, sadly, still just as relevant now in the summer of 2016.

In our Juicy Fruit segment this week, we talk about a Yale employee who pulled a Bree Newsom in the Calhoun College dining hall, where he worked. Corey Menafee smashed a stained glass window that depicted enslaved people picking cotton. He was arrested and charged with a misdemeanor for reckless endangerment in the second degree and a felony for criminal mischief in the first degree. Yale has asked the state’s attorney in Connecticut to drop the charges, and Menafee has since resigned.

And on a brighter note, the VH1 Hip-Hop Honors returned this week after a six-year hiatus, with a special show honoring the genre’s female pioneers. We talk about the performances we loved, and women’s importance in hip-hip history.

Laura is the producer of Strange Fruit, a weekly talk show focusing on race and gender, and produces other news & feature programming.