On Monday, October 22, 2018, the Black Cultural Center, with the help of the Office of the President and LPAC, hosted a talk by Sybrina Fulton, the mother of Trayvon Martin. While the event was originally scheduled for Black History month, according to BCC Intern Joy George ’20, the Black Cultural Center worked to ensure community members had the opportunity to hear Fulton’s story.
Fulton described her life and the events prior to the loss of her son, how her life has changed since the incident, and how she maneuvers through life after his death. In 2012, Sybrina Fulton received news that her 17-year-old son, Trayvon Martin, had been shot and killed in a violent confrontation with George Zimmerman in Sanford, Florida. According to Fulton, the news of her son’s death not only generated a sense of confusion, anger, and sadness amongst Fulton’s family and friends, but across the nation.
“I can vividly remember being in my room, on the floor, looking at my purple walls … and crying. It didn’t feel real,” Fulton said.
The loss of a loved one is no easy experience to endure. With cameras and reporters knocking at her door to interview her, Fulton expressed that there were days she would turn them away because some days were harder than others for her. As Fulton recalled the events of her son’s death, she addressed what it was like to be a mother and public representative for those who have lost their loved ones to gun violence.
“First and foremost, I want you guys not to think of this as a lecture. I am a mother, so think of this as me, a mom, having a conversation with a large audience. People call me a public speaker, but I still don’t think I am. I am simply a mother,” Fulton said at the beginning of her talk.
Fulton’s emphasis on her role as a mother created an atmosphere in the LPAC Theater that was relaxed and personable. Many students resonated with her energy throughout the talk, such as Bria Dinkins ’21.
“She said just think of me as a mother. It wasn’t a message or a theme in her story, but she came off so genuine and vulnerable and just so candid and honest. It really showed what type of person she is by her starting off like that,” Dinkins said.
In the midst of discussing the heavy topics of gun violence and death, Fulton addressed how she became an activist.
“I was never really into politics, but when I lost my son and we got the verdict, I knew something wasn’t right. That’s our justice system, but I knew something had to be done,” Fulton said.
Fulton has created a national organization, Circle of Mothers, that helps mothers who have lost their children to gun violence have a sense of community of women who understand their struggle and grief. She also created a message for the nation, Rest in Power. According to Fulton, Rest in Power acts as the foundation of Fulton’s memoir for her son, the title of Trayvon’s documentary, and the motivation for her progression through life.
“Rest in Power is the name of my book and Trayvon’s documentary that aired on BET. It will make you uncomfortable and you will learn some stuff you probably didn’t know, but that’s the point,” Fulton said.
Fulton stated that acts of senseless gun violence are happening because of the color of people’s skin. In order to fix this, Fulton suggested that we go back to the basics of humanity and human right. This idea of going back to the basics of humanity is one that Dinkins resonated with most.
“Her message about going back to the basics at first sort of startled me because I hadn’t heard that in a while. We don’t really think about the basics. I think it put Swatties in a different headspace. To me, it was as if she was saying, ‘My son died because people can’t think about basic human lives and rights,’” Dinkins said.
Aside from discussing her story, Fulton took time to address the youth in the audience and remind them of their importance in this nation.
“I firmly believe it is too late for my generation, you know, we are about to take a seat. It is up to you guys to make a change in our nation. I really believe that. Continue to get your education because that’s the only way you are going to make it anywhere. It’s with that piece of paper. And don’t just hang it on your office wall. You gotta do something with it,” Fulton said.
Dinkins said that her presence and affirming words about uniting as a community captivated her throughout the entirety of the talk..
“Everything she said, I was really internalizing. She was speaking her truth and was really interactive. I felt a different sense of community because she was engaging with us and made me have a new appreciation for my community. I wasn’t expecting it, but I appreciated it,” Dinks said.
Fulton expressed that she hopes to continue to inspire and help those affected by gun violence in this nation. She plans to expand and continue her annual Circle of Mothers’ conference in addition to continuing to speak out about gun violence to as many people as she can.
“Just keep moving through the storm, please? I know its hard, but no matter what you are going through, you have to look past the storm and get through it.” Fulton said.
Her message and story with gun violence were impactful to many people, according to Dinkins.
“I’m used to a lot of these scholarly articles and statistics, but I think it was great for us to hear real feelings. Her assessment and breaking down of gun violence and race created simple images and phrases that just stuck in your head. It was just ‘wow,’ and really brought me back to the basics,” said Dinkins.
Featured image courtesy of Swarthmore College