Trayvon Martin’s mother urges Black students not to give up the good fight

The Student Association of Black Unity sponsored the conference


Avalon Pernell

Sybrina Fulton spoke virtually to students at eight colleges.

Avalon Pernell

Sybrina Fulton’s life changed eight years ago when George Zimmerman shot and killed her unarmed son, Trayvon Martin.

The incident sparked national fervor. Zimmerman was acquitted of all charges.

“This is not something that I trained for. This is not something I applied for, I would not have applied for this kind of position but as the universe would have it I am here,” Fulton said in a virtual keynote speech for the Black Future Leaders Experience (FLEX) Conference.

The Student Association for Black Unity sponsored the Black Flex Conference alongside the Division of Student Affairs, Alumni Engagement Office and the Office of Inclusion and Engagement.

The Oct. 24 conference brought 80 students, representing eight colleges for the day long event.

Fulton said her son’s death opened her eyes to the injustices still alive in America.

“It is not a justice system for people of color, it’s not a justice system for black and brown people, it’s just not in any means justice for us as African Americans,” Fulton said. “I just wonder how long this is going to continue for us to bury our kids and nothing is going to happen.”

But to Fulton, this fight was bigger than the death of her son, Trayvon Martin.

“I’m trying to make a difference for all the Trayvon Martins who you do not know about, who aren’t a hashtag,” Fulton said.

She said the stakes were raised with the events of this summer.

“Once you have seen what happened with George Floyd you can’t take it back,” she said. “It wasn’t just recorded with a telephone it was recorded with your mind.”

George Floyd died at the hands of a police officer this past summer, reigniting Black Lives Matter protests worldwide. And while these protests were no longer the center of media attention, Fulton said, students should not let up the pressure.

“We all have to be in this together,” Fulton said. “We can’t give up. I can’t say that enough: we can’t give up. We got to keep fighting.”

And to Fulton, education is one way to continue fighting.

“Nothing else matters as much as your edu- cation right now,” Fulton said. “We’re going to need more lawyers, more police officers, more elected officials, and who better to be those people than people in college, people educating themselves.”

And it does not stop at an education, she said. Fulton reminded students to vote in the presidential election and let their voices be heard at the ballot box.

“It’s important to know that you are a part of your future, you can make a difference in using your voice in the election process,” Fulton said.

After running for county commissioner in Miami-Dade County, Florida and losing by 331 votes or less than 1%, Fulton is well acquainted with the importance of voting.

“Each vote is so important…you know it’s important because if it wasn’t important peo- ple wouldn’t be trying to take it away,” she said.

The transition into becoming a public figure was not immediate or easy for Fulton. She said she would not have made it through her son’s death without her relationship with God.

“It was God because when everybody left, when my family was gone, when my church family was gone, and it was just me. It was God that told me how strong I was when I didn’t know I needed it,” she said.

She said this relationship helped her find greater purpose in her pain to help other mothers who had lost a child to gun violence. In 2012, she established the Trayvon Martin Foundation to find “solutions for youth [and] help parents who have been victimized by sense- less violence.”

Circle of Mothers is an organization within the foundation.

“I was able to come back from it only because of the grace of God and because I saw the need to help other mothers,” Fulton said. “Circle of mothers is about empowering women, it’s about strengthening your soul and it’s about helping each other with the pain.”

And Fulton’s message of strength and resilience resonated with some students who attended.

“She added so much to my experience at the Black FLEX Conference, she gave me hope, she gave me strength, she made me feel a little bit better about the world that there are people like her here,” Sarai Warrick, ‘23, said.