Trayvon Martin's mom shares how she turns pain into passion

By Kylie Smith, student writer

The mother of Trayvon Martin told Wingate students last week that she has found ways to “turn her pain into passion” while memorializing her son and working to prevent similar deaths. Martin was 17 years old when he was fatally shot on Feb. 26, 2012, by neighborhood crime watch captain George Zimmerman, who was later acquitted in the controversial Florida case. 

The Sept. 15 virtual Lyceum, “Trayvon Martin's Life: Through The Eyes of His Mother,” featured an interview of Sybrina Fulton by Dedrick Russell, executive producer for community content at WBTV.

Fulton told her audience that the Trayvon Martin Foundation works to ensure that the public is aware of incidents such as Trayvon’s in order to limit the chances of this happening again. In addition to advocating for stricter gun-control measures, the foundation hosts peace walks and talks throughout the year and a huge event each February to remember Trayvon’s life, not his death, she said. Fulton also created Circle of Mothers to support moms who have lost their children to gun violence.

In response to a question from student Brenda Magaly Rodriguez, Fulton said that she had not been able to forgive Zimmerman for her son’s death but that she expects to one day get to a point in her spiritual walk where she will be able to do so.

“I’m always open and I’m always realistic, and I’m honest about my feelings, and I have not. I know that there will come a time where I will forgive the person, but I am not there yet,” she said. “My chest hurts when I think about my son, just knowing that he had a full life ahead of him and someone just took him away, just because of the color of his skin, just because he was wearing a hoodie … I just cannot get past that.”

When student Breona Flemming asked about Fulton’s reaction to incidents of police brutality against African-Americans, she said she limits how much news she watches. 

“Sometimes I have to take a break and say OK, this is enough. I’ve seen enough. Sometimes I have to watch happy things, comedies, laughing, and family,” Fulton said. “I could not watch any more deaths, I could not watch another person being killed in front of me on television.”

Prompted by a question from Ash Prince, Fulton urged Wingate students to advocate for social justice by supporting nonprofit organizations.

“You might have to write a newsletter, you might need to knock on some doors, you might have to give out some handouts. Whatever it is, just be a part, and just be involved and participate in what they are doing,” she said.

Later in the interview, when asked if the “woke movement” had taken anything away from the tragedy of her son’s death, she had this to say: “You can’t take anything away because he’s still gone. You can’t take anything away from George Floyd, Breanna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery. You can’t take anything away from those families because they are already missing. You can only add to the movement. You can only support what has happened by participating and being involved. So no, I do not feel like the ‘woke movement’ has taken away anything. I support Black Lives Matter, all of those social justice organizations. It can only get better, it can’t get any worse.”

Learn more about Wingate’s Lyceum Series.

Sept. 23, 2021