Sybrina Fulton speaks on grief, trauma for Black History Month

CTV News: Ashley Jones-Sykes

Noah Pasley, News Editor

The Black/African American Cultural Center at Colorado State University heard from their first keynote speaker for Black History Month last Thursday. Sybrina Fulton, a Black actress and the mother of Trayvon Martin, spoke virtually in a Q&A to a crowd in the Lory Student Center’s Grand Ballrooms C and D.

Fulton spoke on the expectations placed upon her as a Black woman and mother and the social pressure to be an activist after Trayvon Martin’s death.

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“I’m not strong because I want to be strong,” Fulton said. “I’m strong because I have to be strong. When Trayvon (Martin) was shot and killed in 2012, I was forced to show my strength — I was forced to be strong.”

“There is a lot of hatred in the streets; there are a lot of bad people in the street. But just as there are bad people, there are good people too. We are living amongst the hatred, and we are living amongst the love as well.” -Sybrina Fulton, Black actress and mother of Trayvon Martin

Fulton and Trayvon Martin’s father, Tracy Martin, established the Trayvon Martin Foundation, which Fulton said she used as a “vessel” to help other families who have lost a child to gun violence. She also recommended that younger generations support nonprofit organizations like the TMF, especially locally.

“I would tell them to get involved, … lend your time and your talent,” Fulton said. “Find out what goals that they have, what they’re trying to focus on and just attach yourself to an organization.”

Fulton also talked about how to hold conversations about race with children of color and what age to begin that conversation with them. She said that, after Trayvon Martin’s death, she now thinks it is important to start the conversation as early as 8 or 9 years old so kids can understand that they are seen a certain way by others.

“There is a lot of hatred in the streets; there are a lot of bad people in the street,” Fulton said. “But just as there are bad people, there are good people too. We are living amongst the hatred, and we are living amongst the love as well.”

Fulton said grief counseling has been essential to her since Trayvon Martin’s death, acknowledging that many in the Black community don’t believe in seeking counseling services. She also said that, at first, she also thought grief counseling wouldn’t help her because she tried too soon after the shooting and her mind wasn’t open to the possibility of therapy. But she said she has now regularly seen a grief counselor and continues to see a counselor.

“It’s not because I’m crazy, it’s that I don’t want to be crazy,” Fulton said. “I don’t want to have mental issues; I try to keep my mind right just like I try to keep my appearance right.”

Fulton, who spoke at CSU’s Diversity Symposium in 2015, also spoke on the legacy of Black Lives Matter and Black History Month in the wake of the 2020 protests, largely in response to the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor.

“Prior to Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd, you really didn’t see police officers or everyday citizens being arrested and convicted for … killing people of color,” Fulton said. “It’s a progress, but it’s a slow progress.”

Fulton said it is important to continue moving forward while also recognizing that each life lost is a step backward. She also spoke on the importance of getting involved now, not as a reaction to another shooting occurring.

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“I can’t give up; I have to continue to press forward and continue to move forward,” Fulton said. “I try to convince people to do their part; I tell them all the time that it took my son being shot down in order for me to stand up. I don’t want people to wait until something happens to give all, I want them to give all now.”

Reach Noah Pasley at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @pasleynoah.