In an exclusive interview, Sybrina Fulton discusses her son’s killing a year ago, its impact on her and her strategy for coping with her loss.
(Photo: Courtesy Essence Magazine)
Sybrina Fulton is the mother of Trayvon Martin, the 17-year-old high school student who was shot and killed on Feb. 26, 2012. Since then, she and Trayvon's father, Tracy Martin, have gained national stature for their advocacy against gun violence and Florida’s Stand Your Ground law. Fulton spoke with BET.com about her reflections of her son and the anniversary of his death.
BET.com: What is the main thing you want people to remember about Trayvon?
Sybrina Fulton: That he was an average teenager. He was special to us because he was ours. That he had a lot to look forward to. He had a lot of things going on for himself as far as life in general. He had goals and aspirations.
What do you reflect on when you think about him?
That he won’t get a chance to graduate from high school or go to college, go to the prom, get married, have kids. I won’t get that opportunity to see those things so I just want to remember him as the smiling teenager he was. He was very affectionate, loved listening to music, loved going to the movies, going to the mall, skating. He loved to travel. So I just want to remember those good times. I don’t want to focus on the negative things.
What has this last year has been like for you?
It has been a journey. I always say that it is bittersweet. The sweet part is that I have met so many wonderful people. So many people that support us and so many people that have prayed for us and stood with us and rallied for us and signed a petition and you know, just were there. Just for standing up for something. So that’s the sweet part. The bitter part is actually not having him on Earth and I’m still a mother.
At one point George Zimmerman, your son's killer, had indicated that he had a willingness to meet with you and Trayvon’s father. How do you feel about that?
If he wants to meet with us, he can do it in the court system at the trial. We can meet him on June 10 [when Zimmerman's trial starts].
The trial is due to occur in June. What are your thoughts as the trial looms closer?
Well, prior to the trial, we have this Stand Your Ground hearing, which is April 29. I’m not an attorney. I just think that it’s a part of the process, that it is something that has to be done. Hopefully, it moves to the next stage, which is the criminal trial, and we’re looking forward to the June 10 date so that the person who caused all of this pain to us can be held accountable for what he’s done.
You have become deeply involved in speaking against Florida’s Stand Your Ground law. Why is that?
The Stand Your Ground law sends the wrong message. It sends the message that you can pursue someone. You can follow someone. You can cause a confrontation and shoot and kill the person and not be held accountable for it. I don’t think that was the intention of the law but in hindsight, we’re looking back now and saying this is something that needs to be revised. They need to make some changes when it comes to that specific law.
What is the work being pursued by the Trayvon Martin Foundation?
The foundation is going to help mentor teenagers. It’s going to create scholarships for them to pursue their educational goals. It’s going to try to amend the Stand Your Ground Law. It’s called the Trayvon Martin Amendment and this is an extension from the Stand Your Ground law and it says that you cannot pursue, chase, follow someone, be the aggressor and then say you were standing your ground when you shoot and kill the person.
A little over a year ago, you were just an average person who worked a job.
And I still am.
But you have become a national figure, a symbol and an advocate. What has that experience been like for you?
I still think I’m an average person. I’m doing no more than what anybody else would do for their child. I mean, this was my son. This was my baby. So I have to do my very best at trying to make a difference for him. So even in death, I’m working for my son.
Looking forward, what gives you hope?
God Almighty. I don’t think Sybrina could do this. I don’t think Sybrina, the person, was strong enough to do this. So to me, God stepped in and he said: “Let me lift you up, let me give you the right words to say, let me help you speak, let me help you think, let me help you talk to these different people and inspire them.” So I know that I can’t give the credit to myself. I can only give the credit to God.
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(Photo: John Ricard/BET)