Ten days after what would have been their son’s 22nd birthday and 11 before the five-year annivesary of his death, Trayvon Martin’s parents spoke to a crowd of hundreds at Town Hall Seattle. Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin shared how their son never got to celebrate prom, go to college or buy his own home.
For those unfamiliar with this case, George Zimmerman fatally shot 17-year-old Martin on Feb. 26, 2012. The resulting arrest of Zimmerman, which occurred 44 days after Martin’s death, and his trial in 2013 inspired nationwide protests and fueled an ongoing debate on topics ranging from racial profiling to gun laws. The day after Zimmerman was found not guilty, Sybrina Fulton told her older son, “The verdict will not define Trayvon. We will define Trayvon.”
Which brings us back to Town Hall. On Feb. 15, Fulton and Martin discussed their new book, Rest in Power: The Enduring Life of Trayvon Martin. It’s a painful read, said the evening’s moderator, Vivian Phillips, chair of the Seattle Arts Commission and adjunct professor at Seattle University. Fulton and Martin, who wrote alternating chapters in the book, shared their take on their son’s life and death along with their personal reflections on the case and trial.
Don’t be fooled by what people tell you. The reason Trayvon was killed was because of the color of his skin.
They said Trayvon was a fun-loving, exuberant, articulate, handsome and family-centered teen. He’s on the cover of Rest in Power, which shows the now iconic image of Martin in a hooded sweatshirt. Fulton asked audience members what they saw when they looked at the cover.
“When I look at that picture of Trayvon, not only do I see my baby but I see an average teenager,” she said. “[People] thought at one particular time [that he was killed] because he wore a hoody. Don’t be fooled by what people tell you. The reason Trayvon was killed was because of the color of his skin.”
With that knowledge — “that an average teenager was killed [because of the color of his skin]” — “you are obligated to do your part,” Fulton said.
What can you do? Support nonprofits that fight for equal rights for everyone, suggested Tracy Martin. People of all races can support Black Lives Matter by coming together to educate each other and by getting to know one other, he said.
“We are all God’s people. We fall under the same umbrella,” he said. “We’d rather have a few good men than a band of fools. A few good men can come together to work their differences out. It’s all about coming together and building real diversity.”