Rachel Jeantel, who is well remembered as a “close friend” of Trayvon Martin, kept her promise to him and on Friday, just a few short miles from where the slain teenager is buried: Jeantel graduated high school.
Jeantel spoke to Martin on the phone in February 2012, just before he was shot by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watchman on patrol in a gated community in Sanford, Florida.
Zimmerman has always maintained that he shot Trayvon Martin in self-defense while the two men fought. Zimmerman was found not guilty by a jury last July. Rachel Jeantel was a key witness in the case, but at the time received more media attention for the way she spoke, and the things she said, than anything else.
Born to immigrant parents, Jeantel is multilingual, speaking Haitian Creole, Spanish and English. Although, during the trial, the jurors, and just about everyone in the courtroom, had a hard time understanding what she was saying.
Defense Attorney Don West even mocked Rachel Jeantel, asking her: “Are you claiming in any way that you don’t understand English?” she paused and gave him a stare, then replied: “I don’t understand you. I do understand English.”
Unfortunately the public, mainly via social media, were anything but kind to Jeantel, as Miami defense and civil rights attorney Rod Vereen said, “They called her everything except the child of God. Of course she was frustrated. It was like stepping into an arena, and you don’t know the rules.”
Veeren went on to speak about how challenging it was to help Rachel Jeantel to graduate high school. “When they say it takes a village to raise a child, this is what has happened here. Getting her down that aisle has not been an easy task. Rachel is just like any other teenager. They want to buck the system sometimes, and you just can’t let them buck the system,” he said.
Clearly thrilled that she kept her promise to Martin, Rachel Jeantel spoke confidently about her graduation: “I did it. The witness who didn’t know how to speak English knows how to speak English through the 12th grade now. I never quit.”