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It Could Have Been My Brother

02/26/2013 11:38 am ET | Updated Apr 28, 2013

My brother was dead. I was fully convinced that my brother was dead.

Growing up in sunny central Florida, I felt removed from the grim realities of society. Though I knew crime happened, I understood it more in theoretical sense. In my world of palm trees, rollercoasters, and sunshine, it was hard to imagine crime in any tangible sense. No matter how "rough and tough" I behaved on the mean streets of the nation's capital, I took solace in knowing that I'd be safe and sound in my Florida home.

Until Trayvon Martin died.

I had been bugging my own brother for weeks about completing his college applications and corresponding FAFSA forms. He played sports year round and always forgot things outside of his athletic schedule, so as his big sister being a pest was my birthright and duty.

But one night, after weeks of cellphone silence, my Twitter feed went crazy with news of a dead teenage boy. In a country where gun violence is as common as getting a cold, it didn't phase me. Then, slowly, I began reading tweets describing the African-American football playing teen in central Florida. The location of his death slapped me across my face, and I panicked. I called my brother. No response. I called my parents. No response. Then I flipped through every news station praying not to hear my little brother's name.

Even after verifying that my brother Alexander was unharmed and also unaware of the story, the anxiety in my heart persisted as more details came out surrounding Trayvon Martin's death. Nothing made sense to me. The kid was grabbing a snack at night, like my knuckle head brother would do on a whim. But, while my brother always came back, Martin never did and notably never will.

One year later, his story still deeply affected me, and so I began a journalistic endeavor. I sought out answers from my fellow college students. Were they as intimately affected? Did Martin's story still resonate with them? Were they fearful of wearing a hoodie at night?

As I began to put my story together I started to see Martin's face on every freshmen male I walked by on Howard University's campus. Anyone of them could have been in his position. It is unfortunate Trayvon was not in any of theirs. While these young men will have the opportunity to grow and flourish like those who make my school's legacy so rich, Martin won't.

I decided to focus my interviews on male students exclusively. I wasn't sure what to expect with such an emotional topic and the stereotypical bravado guys tend to put on. But I was truly surprised at the depth of each answer, the feeling in each thought said aloud, and the brotherhood males of every race extended in remembrance of Martin.

The interview that touched me the most came from one of the only males I knew beforehand. Since the day I met Brandon Byrd, I could sense his confidence. He was always cracking jokes, making girls smile, and striving for success. But in our short interview I saw another side of him: I saw a big brother, who had a little brother, who could have easily been my own, or worst yet, Martin. I saw a traditionally self-assured college student exude a fear not just about his own future, but about the one we as a country were shaping for the next generation.

Martin's death was a year ago -- and in that time countless senseless shootings have happened. Has his death been in vain, or will we as a country finally begin to address the underlying issues in his story? If the students I interviewed for mtvU's Campus Dispatch are indicative of a national trend, I have reason to hope for a future in which my brother may someday walk the streets without fear of violence or hate.

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