COLLEGE PARK – In the days following the initial publicity surrounding the shooting of Trayvon Martin, people found various ways to express their grief, outrage and fear.
One Bowie resident turned to her creative outlet: photography.
Eunique Jones Gibson, owner of Eunique Jones Photography, said she was driving home March 21 when she decided to photograph people in hooded sweatshirts like the one Martin wore the night he was killed.
“This was my way to contribute to doing something and trying to refute the stereotype that everyone in a hoodie,” is up to no good, Jones Gibson said. “I know that pictures are relatable, and I felt like the best way to get that message across, that it could be anybody, was pictorially.”
George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch captain, shot and killed Martin, an unarmed African American teenager, in February.
Geraldo Rivera, a Fox news commentator, later suggested Martin’s hoodie was “as much responsible for Trayvon Martin’s death” as the neighborhood watch captain.
His comment inspired thousands of people across the nation to wear hoodies during protests and marches in a show of solidarity with Martin’s family.
A special prosecutor charged Zimmerman with second-degree murder in Martin’s death Wednesday. His attorney said he will plead not guilty.
When she got home on March 21, Jones Gibson got on Facebook and advertised a free photo shoot from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. at her studio in Lanham that evening.
With less than two hours’ notice, 40 people showed up.
Jones Gibson gave each of her models the same dark-gray, hooded sweatshirt and asked them to sign in with their name, occupation and email address.
Some participants, like Krystle McLaughlin, brought their children to the photo shoot.
“When I learned about the photo shoot, I grabbed my two daughters, Kamiah and Maliah, and took them to the studio with me,” McLaughlin, a program specialist for the federal government, said.
“I wanted my children to be a part (of this) because this will be a historical event and I also want them to know that this could have happened to any of us,” McLaughlin said.
Many of Jones Gibson’s subjects stressed the connection they felt to Martin when they donned the hoodie.
“I felt like I was a part of the movement, and this is something I can tell my children and grandchildren about,” said Evelyn Lewis, a statistician. “I was thankful to be a part of (Jones Gibson’s) campaign, and to be a part of the greater Justice for Trayvon Martin Movement. I also thought about how much life this young man still had to live.”
Designer Christina Thomas also thought about Martin during the shoot.
“I don’t think people really realize how it could have been anybody,” she said. “That’s what makes it so real to me… Putting the hoodie on and looking up at the lens took my breath away.”
Tiajuana Tyler-Health, a mother and graphic design student, said she hoped if it were one of her two sons who had been shot she would get the same support.
“This could have been my baby,” she said.
The response was so overwhelming that Jones Gibson and her assistant scheduled a second session three days after the first one.
“I saw the initial set of pictures on Facebook and found them so arresting and striking and compelling,” said epidemiologist Jacqueline Wilson Lucas. “When Eunique put out a call for another set of people … I immediately asked her if I could participate.”
Jones Gibson said the response was mostly positive but, “I read something online where someone said this is contributing to the problem and the photos are kind of making it this black against white kind of thing,” adding only one white person came to the photo shoot.
She said anyone who wanted to attend was “definitely welcome,” emphasizing she and her assistant felt the message was relevant to all ethnicities.
“A lot of people from other races are looking for ways to show their support and solidarity,” Jones Gibson said.