Sybrina Fulton lifts up Trayvon’s name (National Urban League Photo by Mikki K. Harris)
With her voice laced with emotion, Sybrina Fulton, the soft-spoken mother of Trayvon Martin, urged delegates to the National Urban League’s annual convention here to use her personal tragedy to prevent the recurrence of unjustified youth killings in the future.
Fulton’s 7-minute speech to the delegates on Friday came 13 days after a jury in Sanford, Fla. acquitted George Zimmerman, the acknowledged killer of the unarmed 17-year-old high school student, of second-degree murder charges. Martin, who was returning to a residence he and his father were visiting in Sanford 18 months ago after purchasing a bag of Skittles and a can of Arizona iced tea at a nearby 7-Eleven convenience store was followed and fatally shot by Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch captain who claimed self-defense.
Fulton told a wildly cheering crowd, “My message to you is please use my story, please use my tragedy, please use my broken heart, to say to yourself, ‘We cannot let this happen to anybody else’s child.’”
There was no table chatter as delegates paid rapt attention to the mother who is still grieving her son’s death.
“I speak to you as Trayvon’s mother,” she said. “I speak to you as a parent [receiving] the absolutely worst telephone call you can receive as a parent is to know that your son – your son – you will never kiss again. I’m just asking you to wrap your mind around no prom for Trayvon. No high school graduation for Trayvon. No college for Trayvon. No grandkids coming from Trayvon. All because of a law that has prevented the person who shot and killed my son to be held accountable and to pay for this awful crime.”
The acquittal of George Zimmerman on second-degree murder charges touched off protests around the country and sparked a national movement to repeal Stand Your Ground laws that allow an individual to invoke self-defense even when being the aggressor.
Public opinion polls also revealed a deep racial divide. A Washington Post/ABC News poll found that 86 percent of Blacks disapproved of the verdict, practically all of them strongly opposing the jury’s decision, and only 31 percent of Whites disapproving the verdict; 51 percent of Whites approved the decision.
“The verdict is not going to define who Trayvon Martin was,” his mother said. “We will define his legacy. We will define who he is and what he was all about.”
Like Mamie Till Mobley, whose 14-year-old son, Emmett, was brutally murdered in 1955 near Money, Miss. for allegedly whistling at a White woman, Fulton sees her son’s death as serving a larger purpose.
In a 1995 interview with Emerge magazine, Mobley said: “The Lord spoke to me and said that Emmett didn’t belong to me in the first place, that I had been chosen to be his mother while he was on earth and he came here with a specific purpose. He’s done what he came here to do.”
Sybrina Fulton expressed similar sentiment when she said, “At times, I feel like I am a broken vessel. At times, I don’t know if I’m going or coming. But I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that God is using me and God is using my family to make a change, to make a difference.”