Trayvon Martin’s mother on his legacy: ‘Many times, the only person who gets to tell their side is the one with the weapon’

On Feb. 26, many will stop, mourn, and honor the 10th anniversary of Trayvon Martin’s death. The day was a central moment in racial justice organizing, propelling the Black Lives Matter conversation forward into public consciousness. But it was also the day a mother lost her teen son.  

Those feelings are captured in a new essay, “Trayvon’s: Ten Years Later: A Mother’s Essay,” written by Martin’s mother, Sybrina Fulton. Released on Feb.1, it’s a collection of her thoughts on loss, activism, and motherhood, and a concise summary of what’s happened since that evening ten years ago.

On Feb. 26, 2012, 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was killed by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer who shot Martin as he was walking home from a nearby 7-Eleven. Zimmerman argued he was acting in self defense, and it stirred a decade-long conversation about racial bias, gun rights, and Stand Your Ground laws. Martin’s name is still invoked by activists and politicians as an example of an unfair criminal justice system.

Reflecting on her work and grief, Fulton’s essay bounces between the events that unfolded in 2012 and the impact her son’s death had on the larger racial justice movement. She speaks about the media’s obsession with her son’s past, social media posts she had never seen dug up to sway public opinion, and how the world never gave him the chance to learn from his childhood mistakes.

“Many times, the only person who gets to tell their side is the one with the weapon, a tragic circumstance with which I am, unfortunately, familiar,” Fulton writes.

The short work also chronicles Fulton’s emotions during the trial of her son’s murderer, the response her family received from the general public (both positive and negative), and how she was thrust into the role of “mother of a movement,” from starting her own nonprofit, The Trayvon Martin Foundation, to speaking alongside fellow activists and politicians on the national stage. “There is a part of me that died along with my son, so I became who I had to become in that moment. I didn’t pray to become mother of a movement. I was happy to be the mother of Trayvon Martin and Jahvaris Fulton. I became the mother of a movement out of necessity,” she writes. It’s a poignant, honest debrief on the last decade.

Fulton reiterates throughout her story that there’s still plenty of work to be done to achieve justice for her son and other Black Americans who have lost their lives due to race-based violence. And she wants young generations to know that it’s now their time to continue the work. “There is an implicit racial bias sewn into the very fabric of our country. It has always been that way,” Fulton writes. “We need to prepare the next activists… While one generation is getting older, we need the next generation to step up to the plate and use their voice on behalf of the people.”

In an interview with Good Morning America on Feb.1, Fulton described the pain she still feels for her son as the country approaches what would have been his 27th year of life. “I know that Trayvon Martin is a symbol for other Trayvon Martins that you don’t know, that you have not said their name … He was just a vessel that represents so many others,” she said. “My chest still hurts. I still have a hole in my heart.”

“We need to prepare the next activists… While one generation is getting older, we need the next generation to step up to the plate and use their voice on behalf of the people.”

Fulton also spoke about the crawling progress of the racial justice movement, as well as her role in inspiring new generations and supporting communities who are still fighting for justice. “My purpose is to continue to bring awareness to senseless gun violence. My purpose is the circle of mothers – helping other mothers to cope with the loss of a child,” Fulton said. “My purpose is to try to change laws.”

Fulton’s full essay is available in e-book format through Amazon Original Series. It can be downloaded for free for Prime and Kindle Unlimited customers.

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