Photos by Abbie Parr, Lawrence Lam and McKenzie Coyle
Sybrina Fulton wants to spark a conversation with today’s youth, following the death of her son, Trayvon Martin.
“I still cannot explain why my son was killed,” Fulton said to an audience of students, faculty and the Fort Collins community Thursday night in the Lory Student Center ballroom.
Fulton’s son was fatally shot February 2012 in Sanford, Florida by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watchman.
Martin, an African American teen, was on his way home when he took a short cut and walked through Zimmerman’s neighborhood. Zimmerman suspected Martin to be involved in recent buglaries occuring in his neighborhood. Against police instructions, Zimmerman followed the teen which led to a confrontation. The teen was shot and killed three weeks after his 17th birthday.
In 2013, Zimmerman was acquitted for the charges of second-degree murder and manslaughter in a case that sparked national attention.
The image of Martin wearing his white hoodie became an icon, of the case and within the black community.
“For so long, I wanted to believe he was killed because of the hoodie – that’s what the media said,” Fulton said. “But Trayvon was murdered for the color of his skin.”
Fulton said she attributes the attention and support Trayvon received to college students through their use of social media.
“It’s easy to decide to come (talk) to a university because students helped move the movement along before the media outlets did,” Fulton said.
Martin’s death created national outcry, including a petition of over 2.5 million signatures asking for an arrest to be made.
“I followed the story closely,” said Colorado State University junior Charmane Burch. “I felt like it was destiny that she came to talk here at CSU, and I knew I had to come.”
In her speech, Fulton said the worst day of her life was the day of her son’s funeral.
“Trayvon was in a casket wearing a white suite, as if he was going to prom, as if he was an angel,” Fulton said.
Fulton said her strength came from strong family, friends, a support team and scripture. She said she believes her son is in a better place,
“I know where Trayvon is,” Fulton said. “He’s in heaven. He made it in.”
To channel her grief in a positive way, Fulton started the Trayvon Martin Foundation, which creates awareness and provides support to families of violent crimes.
The foundation also provides scholarship opportunities, school supplies, immunization education and donates money to families of victims who may not be able to afford a proper funeral.
The foundation recently had their Remembrance Weekend, which included a peace walk and peace talk. The events take place in February in honor of Martin’s birthday.
The peace walk included activities, involving motivational speakers and law enforcement. Fulton said she sees a benefit for youth interacting with police, since her father was a police officer.
“There are good law enforcement officers, and there are bad law enforcement officers,” Fulton said. “There is good and bad in everything.”
Fulton said her mission is to bring about conversation, especially in young people, about laws, standing your ground, racial tensions and different types of solutions. Fulton said she hopes people who are not affected by these situations take a part in the conversation too.
“I suggest you not wait until it happens to you, because it is happening right here in your country,” Fulton said.
Omo Odia, a CSU junior, also followed Trayvon’s case from the beginning.
“It hit home for me because it could have easily been someone I knew,” Odia said.
Fulton said she plans to continue on the legacy of her son, to represent him and tell about the person he was.
“I have lent my voice to the voiceless,” Fulton said. “I am Trayvon Martin.”
As for forgiving the man who killed her son, Fulton said she has not gotten there yet.
“Will there come a time when I will forgive him?” Fulton said. “Yes, but not yet.”
Collegian reporter Kendall Krautsack can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @keni444.