I have been captivated by your story ever since I first caught wind of it in February. Like your parents, and countless other Americans, I want justice for you and the life that you will never get to live. I am saddened by the recent attacks on your character from various anonymous "sources" that claim that you weren't a good kid, implying that somehow George Zimmerman was within his rights to take your young life because of a 10 day school suspension and an empty bag of weed. These "sources" are trying to paint you as a young black man headed towards a criminal life at the incredibly young age of 17.
It has always amazed me that people who are the staunchest defenders of life are the same people most comfortable taking it. While the ones that preach "love thy neighbor" are the ones quickest to attack them. To the people out there attempting to smear your name I would say that if they were to be judged by the things they did as a teenager, their lives might also look anything but upstanding. Trayvon, I sincerely wish we had met before your murder made me aware of your life. I see so much of myself in you. When I was 17 I certainly was not the man I am today. I grew up in South Central, Los Angeles. My teenage years were very tumultuous for me and I often felt alone, uncertain and afraid. I sought security and acceptance in all the wrong places and I paid the price for that. I joined a gang when I was a young man and as a result of my involvement I have been in situations and seen things that still haunt me to this day.
When I was 17 I had dabbled with weed and alcohol, hell I still do (some things never change). I had been expelled from three schools for all sorts of reasons: problems with authority, fighting, and truancy. I did not graduate from high school, and only received my GED years later when I was a husband and a father. Thankfully my life is not the sum parts of who I was and what I did when I was 17. I went on to have a beautiful wife and three children. My two oldest are already college graduates and my youngest will be graduating in two years. I am a King of Comedy and I have had the pleasure of working with some of the best talents in the world. I have had several of my own televisions shows, radio shows, and in August I will release my first book.
I have traveled the world, become a wine aficionado, a golf lover, an avid Lakers fan, met important heads of state, and I've seen a black man inaugurated as the 44th President of the United States. I have lived and thrived in ways I couldn't imagine when I was a teenager.
I cannot help but wonder how people would have remembered me had my life been cut short at 17. I feel a profound sense of loss when I think of you ,Trayvon. Not only as a black man but as a father and a human being. I'm sad that the world will never know what you would have become. Your parents will never get to experience the joy of watching you graduate from high school or college. They will never get to see you come into your own as a man. Perhaps you would have grown into a "thug" or a "criminal." I am not naïve enough to be unaware of the myriad of possibilities. But you had every right to grow up and make those decisions for yourself and that right was taken away from you the same night your life was.
I once heard a man say "I am the man now the little boy I was always wanted to be." I am sorry that you will never get to say the same thing. My sincerest wish is that if I am lucky and I live the rest of my life in a way that warrants God's grace, I might run into you at some point and tell you how wonderful it is to finally meet you. For now all I or anyone else touched by this tragedy can do is to live for you. To make sure that your name does not fade into the night.
P.S. This letter to you was written in part by the daughter I would have never had if my life had been taken from me at 17.