Pastor D.H. Dawkins stood at his pulpit and pulled the hood of his sweat shirt onto his head — much like the garb worn by teenager Trayvon Martin when he was shot dead.
"If you're wearing a hoodie, stand up and put it on — we're making a statement," said the pastor of Praise Tabernacle International in Plantation. "Trayvon's voice will not be silenced."
About 30 members stood and donned their hoodies. Dawkins held his son, 9-month-old D.J., and put a hood on his head, as well.
"Are we next because we look suspicious?" Dawkins asked. "For the sake of our future, we must cry out and spare not."
Sunday services across South Florida and in locales such as New York and Atlanta carried a similar message, as worshippers donned hoodies in a tribute to the slain youth.
Martin, 17, of Miami Gardens, was killed Feb. 26 by a member of a Neighborhood Watch group in Sanford who said he acted in self defense. Pastors of several congregations, many in historically black denominations, don't believe it.
In Boynton Beach, Pastor Nathaniel Robinson pulled the hood of his sweat shirt over his head and asked his congregants: "Do I look like a criminal?"
"No!" thundered members of his Greater St. Paul AME Church in Boynton Beach, several of whom also wore hoodies.
After the "Holy Hoodie Day" service, Robinson, still wearing the garment, repeated what he had said to worshippers.
"What does a criminal look like?" asked Robinson, 31. "There are some clerics who wear collars and molest little boys. There are political leaders in suits and ties who lie and lead us into wars. Do they look like criminals?"
Robinson said he knows first-hand about racial profiling. Just 18 months ago, he said, he was stopped by police as he, his wife and their 2-year-old daughter drove into their gated Davie neighborhood. Robinson said he was ordered out of his car at gunpoint and forced to lie face-down in the street.
The officer told him there had been a robbery in his neighborhood and he fit the description of the suspect. After checking his ID, Robinson said, the officer allowed him to rejoin his terrified family.
"He said he was sorry," said Robinson.
Fellow minister Dawkins agreed that profiling was still rife. "Will I be judged by my color, the height of my cheekbones, the thickness of my lips, or my hoodie?" he asked during his sermon.
He called for the arrest of George Zimmerman, the man who shot Martin. "And we pray for him as well. He is still one of God's children."
On Sunday morning, a longtime friend defended Zimmerman on TV news shows, saying he thought the killing "would all blow over." Joe Oliver of Orlando told the "Today" show that Zimmerman is "just now realizing not just how big this is for him, but how big this is for the country."
Oliver, a former TV news reporter, said Zimmerman was not a racist and felt remorse for shooting Martin. "He couldn't stop crying. He's a caring human being," Oliver told a Reuters reporter.
The shooting has been chilling for parents, some of whom have warned their children about how others may see things such as hoodies, tattoos and low-riding pants — even how many young men ride in a car at once.
"We have a long way to go on how we're perceived," said Robbin Wynn of Dawkins' church, who often cautions her son, Jared, 19. "He says I'm overly protective. Well, I'd rather do that than have some tragedy happen."
The Martin case has sparked a national discussion, not just of racial profiling but of Florida's controversial "stand your ground" law, civil rights and voter intimidation, said the Rev. Chris Bolden of The House of God in Delray Beach.
The hoodie, said Bolden, 44, "has become a very powerful symbol of togetherness of something that is galvanizing the nation. Not just African-Americans. Everyone."
Ervin Joseph, 26, of North Lauderdale, who teaches exceptional students, praised the idea of church services for Martin.
"It reminds us that in unity there is power," said Joseph, of Praise Tabernacle, his sky-blue hoodie contrasting with his worn maroon Bible. "We can come together for a right and good cause, to show that not everyone in a hoodie is up to no good."
In Miami Gardens, Martin's mother, Sybrina Fulton, attended Sunday service at Antioch Missionary Baptist Church, where a movement is building in memory of the teen. On Monday, buses will leave from the church to rallies in Sanford.
Bolden, too, said he would use the church van to take 12-15 members from Delray Beach to a Sanford rally and march scheduled for 4 p.m. He said they planned to arrive early so there would be time to buy hoodies and Skittles.
"In 80-degree weather, we might not be comfortable wearing hoodies," he said. "But this is important."
Information from The Miami Herald and Reuters was used in this report.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times