The 2012 shooting of an unarmed Black teenager in Sanford Florida, a painful example of modern day racism and brutal gun violence, sparked protests and a lengthy court battle. That boy was Trayvon Martin, who would have been just twenty-two last Saturday. His parents spoke at Sixth and I Synagogue last Friday during this difficult month (he was killed February 26) to discuss their son’s life, death, their book, as well as actions they have taken in order to fight for justice.
Rest in Power tells the story of Trayvon Martin’s life and was the subject of much of Friday night’s discussion. The book was written by Trayvon’s parents, Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin.Though divorced, they decided to write the book together as they “wanted to tell who Trayvon was through a parent’s point of view.” Martin added that the Judicial system portrayed his son as a villain and he “wanted the world to know the good that Trayvon did.”
Joined by their publisher Chris Jackson, Fulton and Martin talked about Trayvon’s early childhood and the events that followed his murder. Passionately recalling their son’s early life, Fulton described Trayvon as both affectionate and a “momma’s boy.” While Martin recalled nine year old Trayvon saving his life in a house fire, and how not being there the night of Trayvon’s murder weighed deeply on his soul, “I could not save him that night.”
As the conversation shifted to more recent events, Fulton and Martin discussed the trial and the lengthy process beforehand, in which they fought for the 911 tapes to be released and for Zimmerman to be arrested. Martin described the trial as “shocking” and stated that the “scales of justice were unbalanced.” Fulton continued by adding, that Zimmerman’s private attorney wanted to “blame Trayvon for his own death.” They noticed that racial profiling was not apart of the language used in court and the stark contrast between private lawyers compared to what the state provided. The pair witnessed the court poke fun of how their witness looked while all of the defense’s witnesses were fully prepared. The trial lasted only two days, but by the end Martin said that “all the faith I had had been lost.”
Never mentioning Zimmerman by name Fulton and Martin focused on the issues within the Judicial system instead of attacking their son’s killer. Fulton explained that part of their current mission is to “help other young people who are victims of the justice system.” They have worked to repeal Florida’s “Stand-your-ground” law which allows for the use of force in self defense because “it does not apply fairly to Black or brown people.” Martin and Fulton have also created the Trayvon Martin Organization, and run separate conferences for the mothers and fathers of those who have lost children. These groups are open to anyone who has suffered the loss of a child. When asked what their biggest message for allies was, Martin emphasized the the importance of becoming involved in organizations as well as protesting and marching but doing it peacefully. “Trayvon is watching us in heaven, smiling on his parents.” Fulton said. She and Martin ended the talk with visible tears in their eyes, and a standing ovation from the crowd, as they vowed to never give up their work.
IMAGE COURTESY OF BOSSIP