Transformative Darkness: Fear, Vigilantism and the Death of Trayvon Martin

  • Abimbola Cole Kai-Lewis
Part of the Pop Music, Culture and Identity book series (PMCI)


On 26 February 2012, seventeen-year-old Trayvon Martin was shot by neighbourhood watchman George Zimmerman. Zimmerman spotted Martin on a late evening walk through the gated Sanford, Florida, community in which his father lived. Martin was wearing a dark hooded sweatshirt and had recently purchased a pack of Skittles and an Arizona iced tea from a local store. Zimmerman was convinced that the black teen looked suspicious and called the police after trailing Martin through the area. Minutes later Zimmerman approached Martin and shot him. Martin’s death led to national outrage about the flagrant policing of black males in the USA. It also sparked endless questions about race, vigilantism and Zimmerman’s intentions when he encountered Martin that dusky evening. This chapter examines emcee Chosan’s song “Hoodie On” (2013). Chosan eulogizes Martin and critiques the perception of black youth as threatening and dangerous figures in suburban settings. Moreover, Chosan demonstrates the heightened sense of fear surrounding night-time encounters with black males. He emphasizes that a transformative darkness occurs where darkness is metaphorically converted into light. The darkness that Chosan refers to represents negative assumptions about black males, ensuing fright, and the violence emerging as a consequence. I will use lyrical analyses, musical analyses and personal communication with Chosan to explore the depiction of Martin in this nocturnal context. Additionally, I will address how documentation from the Trayvon Martin case illuminates how such ideas contribute to fatal incidents triggered by unwarranted policing and increased incidences of racial profiling.

Works Cited

  1. Brewster, Todd. 2016. Foreword. In Nobody: Casualties of America’s War on the Vulnerable, from Ferguson to Flint and Beyond, ed. Marc Lamont Hill. New York: Atria Books. Kindle.Google Scholar
  2. Cable News Network (CNN). 2012. Hoodie’s Evolution from Fashion Mainstay to Symbol of Injustice. Accessed January 7, 2017.
  3. The CERCL Writing Collective. 2014. Breaking Bread, Breaking Beats: Churches and Hip-Hop—A Basic Guide to Key Issues. Minneapolis: Fortress Press. Kindle.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Chosan. 2015. Personal Communication, February 22.Google Scholar
  5. ———. 2016. Personal Communication, December 27.Google Scholar
  6. ———. 2017. Personal Communication, January 11.Google Scholar
  7. Cole Kai-Lewis, Abimbola. 2015. The New Endangered Species: Interpretations of the Michael Brown Case by Rapper Chosan. Conference Paper Presented at the Current Musicology 50th Anniversary Conference.Google Scholar
  8. Crenshaw, Kimberlé. 1989. Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics. University of Chicago Legal Forum 1 (8): 139–167.Google Scholar
  9. ———. 2016. The Urgency of Intersectionality. Accessed February 21, 2018.
  10. FBI. 2015. Federal Officials Close Investigation into Death of Trayvon Martin. Accessed December 29, 2016.
  11. Fulton, Sybrina, and Tracy Martin. 2017. Rest in Power: The Enduring Life of Trayvon Martin. New York: Spiegel & Grau.Google Scholar
  12. Gilroy, Paul. 1993. The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double-Consciousness. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  13. Gooding-Williams, Robert. 2012. Fugitive Slave Mentality. Accessed January 13, 2017.
  14. Khan-Cullors, Patrisse, and asha bandele. 2018. When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir. New York: St. Martin’s Press. Kindle.Google Scholar
  15. Perry, Imani. 2004. Prophets of the Hood: Politics and Poetics in Hip Hop. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar


  1. Chosan. 2013. Hoodie On. Silverstreetz Entertainment. No Information.Google Scholar
  2. Ice Cube. 1990. New Endangered Species. Priority Records. SL57120.Google Scholar


  1. Chosan. 2013. Hoodie On. Accessed December 26, 2016.

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Abimbola Cole Kai-Lewis
    • 1
  1. 1.Community Partnership Charter SchoolBrooklynUSA

Personalised recommendations