April 11 marked a national day of awareness for the fatal shooting of student Trayvon Martin, 17, in February and the murder of Iraqi immigrant and mother of five, Shaima Alawadi, 32, in March. With both cases widely portrayed in the media as hate crimes of racial and religious prejudice, although that is now contested in Shaima Alawadi’s case, students and universities including UC Santa Cruz organized a nationwide event advocating against crimes of discrimination and injustice.

The National Day of Action for Shaima and Trayvon, which ended with breaking news that the Trayvon Martin case would go to a murder trial, aimed to inform students of the faces behind all of the media attention.

“The whole Trayvon Martin issue isn’t just a black issue, it’s an issue that people face if they’re a person of color,” said DT Amajoyi, commissioner of diversity at the UC Santa Cruz Student Union Assembly (SUA). “You’re always judged — either by a cultural marker like a hijab, or by the color of your skin.”

Members of the UC Santa Cruz Student Union Assembly and Muslim Student Alliance hosted the event in front of the College 9/10 dining hall Wednesday afternoon.

Armed with the support of both committed members of the cause and interested passersby, organizers encouraged students to don either a hoodie or a hijab (head scarf worn in the Islamic tradition) and take a picture with signs reading statements like “I am Trayvon,” “I am Shaima” and “I am 4 Justice.” Amajoyi said the slogans were intended to symbolize student solidarity with the victims and send the message that anyone can be a victim of injustice.

Second-year earth and planetary sciences major Shaz Umer said he felt a connection to the discriminatory and hateful acts that occurred over the past two months.

“My dad is Pakistani and he’s Muslim,” Umer said. “I’m very familiar with the Trayvon Martin case and how that erupted over stereotyping people wearing hoods and the same thing with hijabs — the same thing as going through an airport. These cases are spreading awareness that stereotyping still exists in this country.”

Fourth-year political science major Blake Hooper came to the College 9/10 dining hall to participate in the event in support of its cause.

“I think events like this are a really good idea,” Hooper said. “You can ‘like’ anything on Facebook, but showing up is really important.”

Toward the end of the event, news broke that Martin’s shooter, neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman, had been arrested on the charge of second-degree murder nearly two months after the shooting occurred.

“Finally, some justice,” Amajoyi said. “I think that’s one of the biggest issues that some people had … that this 17-year-old boy was killed and his killer was able to walk away, seemingly with no repercussions for his action. People will appreciate the fact that there is something being done — that there is a move toward justice. We’re far from being a post-racial society … far from it. I think if people are talking — good or bad — [discussion is] good.”

Pictures from the event were uploaded onto the National Day of Action for Shaima and Trayvon Facebook page, where students were encouraged to share and repost the pictures as an example of 21st century activism toward issues of social injustice.

The Facebook Event page can be found at: