WATERVILLE — The Rev. Dr. Cheryl Townsend Gilkes said that like historian John Hope Franklin, the older she gets, the angrier she gets.

Gilkes, a professor of African-American studies and sociology at Colby College, placed the killing of Trayvon Martin into historical context Wednesday night during the conversation “The Politics of Blackness, Vigilantism and Hoodies: In Search of Justice for Trayvon Martin.”

Gilkes, who is also assistant pastor of Union Baptist Church in Cambridge, Mass., said institutional racism has sought to keep black people out of white spaces since slavery was abolished.

“This did not start yesterday, and it will not end tomorrow,” she said.

Martin, a 17-year-old African American, was shot and killed by George Zimmerman as he walked to his father’s fiancee’s home in a gated community on a rainy February night in Florida.

Gilkes said she was angered to hear a commentator on CNN state that if Martin had just stopped and explained himself that Zimmerman would not have killed him.

“I said, ‘Hell no, those days are over.'”

She talked of “sundown towns” where, in the 1930s, black people had to be out of specified communites by a certain time at night.

However, some whites still feel justified in questioning African Americans about why they are in certain areas.

As evidence, Gilkes pointed to “birthers” contending that Barack Obama was not born in the United States and therefore should not be eligible to be president.

“The president had to show his papers and that he had a right to be there,” she said, “and they still won’t let it rest.”

Before a conversation among the 20 students and adults who attended the conversation, Gilkes said there would be no justice for Trayvon.

“He’s dead like a lot of other young men,” she said, “and what has been done cannot be undone.”

Beth Staples — 861-9252

[email protected]

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