Sybrina Fulton, mother of iconic slain teenager, Trayvon Martin, says she’s not a celebrity! But with one look at her date book, you’ll find that she is as much in demand as any other noted individual or world-wide celebrity! She recently returned from Switzerland where she gave a speech at the United Nations, and she’s hobnobbed with some of the biggest names in the world, such as Aretha Franklin, Jay Z and Beyonce, the Obamas and many, many more. But Fulton insists, she is as down to earth and normal as they come, doing things like going to the mall, (even though she is clearly recognized!), curling up on the sofa watching westerns, keeping up with doctor’s appointments, and yes, even going for a much-deserved spa day. But this amazing woman, who has been uncannily thrust into the spotlight, says she is on a mission to transform lives.
As founder of the Trayvon Martin Foundation, now with sprawling offices on the campus of Florida Memorial University in Miami, she has a full plate, jet-setting from coast to coast, speaking out on justice, injustice, racial profiling and more. These days, she wants people to take her experience and knowledge and make it work in their favor. Through the tragic loss of her baby son, Trayvon, in 2012, at the age of 17, she has learned much about the justice system. And she wants to pass along that knowledge to the uneducated (about the system), the uninformed and anyone who will listen to her conventional wisdom. Over the course of these challenging two years, she is now able to define what pleases her about people, what bothers her, and what would make her most happy about the African American race.
With just under two weeks until Election Day, she has a message for the black community: go out and vote, whatever you do! These days, she’s making a passionate plea to the African-American community about exercising this precious right. It pains her that her own people will not take advantage of their unalienable right to vote. “People died for us to do this!” she exclaimed. How can we expect change if we don’t vote, she asks, emphatically, sitting in the conference room of the foundation – pictures of Trayvon in his trademark “hoodie” hanging above us. It’s a tragedy, she says, that we traditionally vote in such small numbers, and she’s afraid we’ll never make a difference if the trend doesn’t change. She doesn’t understand why we take it so lightly and she’s urging her people to change that. “That’s what speaks the loudest – those votes. You can march, rally and do all those other things, but if you look at it –President Obama wouldn’t have gotten elected if we didn’t get out and actually vote. We did it !,” she says. “But we need to make sure our young people vote even when it’s not a presidential election. We have to hold our public officials accountable,” she said passionately.
She says it’s not important who she will vote for on November 4, instead she is urging the community to look closely at the candidates and decide which one will benefit “your community,” she said. “I don’t want people to follow me. Select someone who most represents you and your community,” she advised. “I want to reinforce that this is our opportunity to get our voices told,” she said.
Because she is so passionate about voting, she wants to issue a challenge to the black community. “We need everyone to encourage seven people to vote in this election. The number “seven” is historically a great number. We can’t stay in our own little box. We need to encourage someone else. Just encourage seven people. That’s it. Seven! If everyone did this, we could be a GREAT community! People don’t think it matters, but it does,” she stresses. “Your two cents makes a difference.”
She’s passionate about another aspect of the judicial system, and that’s jury duty. It’s another of her pet peeves that she wants to educate the black community on. She knows jury duty is something most people don’t want to do. But the outcome is detrimental to our community when it comes to a controversial trial, she points out. If everybody continuously tries to get out of jury duty, then there will never be any black jurors in the jury pool, she stresses. And she has seen first hand, through the highly touted Trayvon Martin trial, how this makes all the difference in the world. “We can’t continue to do this. It hurts us in the end,” she insists. “When you get that jury summons, you’ve got to go willingly! We need you on the jury,” she urged. Fulton says it’s just another part of the system where the African American community is uninformed. “We have to learn these systems so that they’re not working against us,” she points out.
Fulton says in addition to speaking on such issues, she now devotes her time to helping others, using her painful experience to make life easier for others in similar situations or those who’ve suffered from tragedy, and not just gun violence. She’s formulated a “Circle of Mothers,” to help heal the hearts of mothers who have lost children tragically. This year, 50 mothers came to a retreat – all expenses paid, at the luxurious Bonaventure Resort and Spa in Weston, Florida. Many of the mothers were from high profile cases that have played out in the news media including some mothers from the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting tragedy. Mothers of lesser known cases were there also. Slain rapper Tupac Shakur’s mother, Afeni Shakur, was keynote speaker and life coach Lisa Nichols, led the ladies through healing sessions. They laughed, they cried and they reflected on the lives of their loved ones. Next year, Fulton hopes to offer the retreat, whose main sponsor is the Trayvon Martin Foundation, to even more mothers. “I want 100 women to attend. It has to be even bigger next year,” she said of the retreat, which is usually held a week after Mother’s Day. “I’ve got to go higher with it! I try to keep in touch with the mothers. I want them to feel so special,” she lamented.
Fulton said God has used her son’s tragic death for a purpose. “Even though I don’t understand what God’s will is –and I don’t. But I now know that it’s not just about Trayvon. It’s definitely for a higher purpose,” she said reflectively, as she closed shut an album full of photographs.
For more information or to make a contribution to the Trayvon Martin Foundation, call the Foundation at 786-504-4235.
Daphne Taylor can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org