LUMBERTON — In honor of Black History month, Benjamin Crump, an attorney and Lumberton native, told Lumberton Junior High School students he has a dream — for them.
“I wanted to tell them life can be as good for them as they believe it to be, they just have to work hard and keep dreaming and keep fighting for their dreams to stay alive,” Crump said. “… The statistics tell you you’re not going to make it, that it’s impossible, but nothing is impossible. There’s always an exception to every rule.”
Crump, who represented the family of slain Florida teenager Trayvon Martin in a case that divided the nation, spoke in front of hundreds of students, along with faculty, family and friends during the school’s Black History Program on Friday.
“When I look at you all I see Trayvon Martin. You have so much hope. You have a bright future ahead of you,” Crump said to the crowd.
Martin was shot by George Zimmerman in 2012, igniting a media firestorm and protests nationwide over Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law.
The program also included performances by the Lumberton Junior High School band and the South Robeson High School drum line, as well as readings by several students.
Having grown up in the Turner Terrace neighborhood, Crump said he has seen many friends and classmates fall victim to drugs, poverty and violence.
“God has a plan for us all and it is not walking up and down Martin Luther King Drive,” Crump said.
Crump said it was sentimental to speak to students whose position he was once in.
“… When you go through the challenges of everyday life where cars are broke down and there are problems with keeping the phones on and there are no computers in the house, young people sometimes get discouraged,” Crump said.
Crump was awarded the NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund Bootstrap Award and was the first black chairman of Florida State University’s Law School board of directors. Through the high-profile cases he’s litigated, he’s met actor Jaime Foxx, rapper Jay-Z, his superstar wife Beyonce and even their baby Blue Ivy.
So when he offered up his 10 tips for attaining success, students took note.
Crump told students to dream big, like he did as a kid wanting to be a lawyer, so “ people don’t have to fight in the streets.”
He also told them to do the right thing, whether it’s passing on drugs or fighting for a good cause.
“I got to do a lot of major things just by getting out and trying to do the right thing,” he said. “ … If you do the right thing, you’ll be cool forever.”
Seventh-grader Daniel Locklear, who wants to play in the NFL, said the program taught him “to never give up” on that vision. He started immediately by shaking the hand of Rowland native and Baltimore Ravens player Vonta Leach, who was also in attendance.
“It was really motivating,” Gabriella Green said. Green, also a seventh-grader, hopes to be a geoscientist.
Crump’s takeaway message for the students was simple — to not “just make a living but to make a life… where you matter not just in the capitalistic phase of the world, but in every dynamic of life, and that you made the world a better place because you were in it.”