During a performance this past Sunday (July 14) at Canada's largest music festival, Le Festival d'été de Québec, Stevie Wonder announced that he refuses to perform in Florida or any other state that has a "Stand Your Ground" law until said laws are abolished.
"The truth is that — for those of you who’ve lost in the battle for justice, wherever that fits in any part of the world — we can’t bring them back," Wonder explained. "What we can do is we can let our voices be heard. And we can vote in our various countries throughout the world for change and equality for everybody."
So, he said, "I decided today that until the 'Stand Your Ground' law is abolished in Florida, I will never perform there again. As a matter of fact, wherever I find that law exists, I will not perform in that state or in that part of the world."
In the U.S., at least 22 states have some degree of a "Stand Your Ground" law, which allows force to be used in self-defense in any place where a person has "a legal right to be." This extends beyond the more traditional right to self-defense that can be used in one's own home, and without it, a person is required by law to retreat from any unlawful attack.
Wonder made this announcement one day after the verdict was handed down in the George Zimmerman trial. Zimmerman was found not guilty of manslaughter and second degree murder in Sanford, FL, after following Trayvon Martin around a neighborhood complex, confronting him and shooting him to death. Although Zimmerman did not invoke the "Stand Your Ground" law in his defense during the trial, he was not arrested until two months after the incident based on his self-defense claims.
Challenging the "Stand Your Ground" law could be central to any civil case that the Martin family decide to pursue.
"People know that my art is a love for everyone," Wonder said. But, " … as I said earlier, you can't just talk about it, you got to be about it. We can make change by coming together for the spirit of unity — not in destruction, but in the perpetuation of life itself."
As New York is not on the list of states with a Stand Your Ground statute, Wonder is still scheduled to headline the forthcoming Global Citizen Festival in Central Park this September alongside Alicia Keys.
To learn more about the Trayvon Martin tragedy, click here.
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(Photo: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for BET)