Jay-Z’s Trayvon Martin Documentary Explores Race and Gun Violence
A new six-part documentary debuted this week, exploring the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin in 2012 and the aftermath of racial tension and gun violence that continues today in the U.S.
Martin was an African-American teen in Florida who was shot and killed by neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman. The teenager was unarmed and walking to his dad’s house.
Rapper Jay-Z executive produced the new series, which debuted on July 30th on BET and the Paramount Network. The Los Angeles Times reported that “Rest in Power” was based in part on the 2017 book “Rest in Power: The Enduring Life of Trayvon Martin”, written by the teen’s parents, Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin, who also helped produce the series.
The documentary examines the cultural context that surrounded Martin’s death, including the NRA’s influence on gun laws (Florida’s Stand Your Ground law bolstered Zimmerman’s claim of self-defense against Martin), the housing crisis of 2010, and the town of Sanford’s own history of racial tensions going back to the Civil War.
Though the judge at Zimmerman’s trial barred the prosecution from discussing “racial profiling,” the new documentary details the way race dominated the proceedings, from the mostly-white jury to the defense team’s demeaning treatment of Martin’s friend Rachel Jeantel on the stand.
In 2013, Zimmerman was found not guilty for second-degree murder because there was not enough evidence for a federal hate crime prosecution.
The documentary traces how the Black Lives Matter movement sprung up after the events — from a hashtag spawned after the not guilty verdict — to an organized social justice phenomenon.
“Rest in Peace” will air weekly on Mondays, on Paramount and BET at 10 p.m. ET. It can also be accessed via streaming in real time on the Paramount Network’s website, through viewers’ cable account. Viewers without cable can stream the documentary live on apps like DirecTV Now.