Winston-Salem, NC-- Union Baptist Church in Winston-Salem is known for stepping outside the pulpit to talk about issues facing the black community.
Tuesday night was no different. As the story and questions grow surrounding a teenager's death in Florida, the church held a prayer vigil and forum to discuss related issues.
Trayvon Martin was shot and killed on February 26 in a gated community by community watch captain George Zimmerman. Zimmerman said he acted in self defense although on a 911 call he admitted that he was following the teenager and was told to stop by the dispatcher. Some time after the call Martin was dead and Zimmerman hasn't been charged.
After leaving a 7-Eleven store, Martin was walking back to his father's girlfriend's house in the Retreat at Twin Lakes subdivision. He was not armed. He had his cell phone, a bag of Skittle and a can of Ice Tea.
Speakers at the Union Cross event said Martin's death is an bigger issue of profiling and stereotyping young black males.
Union Baptist Church Pastor Sir Walter Mack said, "Stereotypes are real. And we are living in a culture where people judge based on how you look, how you walk or where you live. What we've got to do as a community is break down those stereotypes and realize that people are people and we cannot group people because of how they look on the outside because there is good character on the inside and we can't always make those judgements based on how someone looks."
Mack said the key is for parents to stay involved with their children's lives and for people to come together as a community. "We need to learn how to respect each other, stand against violence, and know that every life is valuable."
Tuesday night's session pointed out that the Martin incident should not be considered an isolated incident. Mack said, "What directly affects some of us indirectly affects all of us."
Panelists for at Tuesday night's forum included Dr. John Mendez, pastor of Emmanuel Baptist Church, Keith Grandberry, president of the Winston-Salem Urban league, and Dr. Nkrumah Lewis, assistant professor od sociology at Winston-Salem State University.
WFMY News 2