Before they heard their dead son’s screams on 911 tapes, before protesters wearing hoodies rallied on America’s streets, before George Zimmerman’s trial, Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin were taking notes. They wanted to preserve Trayvon Martin’s memory.
The parents of Trayvon documented their lives on notepads in the days and weeks after Zimmerman fatally shot their unarmed 17-year-old son in February 2012: the Sanford Police Department’s investigation, the wave of national protests, the media appearances, the stress and the despair. These exhaustive notes — an attorney told them to record everything — turned into the new book “Rest in Power: The Enduring Life of Trayvon Martin,” a recounting of the weeks and months before and after Trayvon’s slaying and the global outcry it inspired.
“We don’t want people to remember Trayvon by the way he was killed, so it was important to show why he was killed, to humanize Trayvon as a child,” Martin says in a phone interview. “By us writing a book, it was therapeutic, informative and inspirational.”
Fulton and Martin, who will discuss the book Saturday, Feb. 4, at Florida Memorial University and Monday, Feb. 6, at Miami-Dade College’s Wolfson Campus, say Trayvon’s life, not his death, mattered. To celebrate Trayvon’s legacy best, and to prevent other black teenagers from sharing similar fates, the Miami Gardens parents say they’re considering a run for public office.
“I’ve always said that in order to make change, you have to be a part of the change,” Fulton says. “We were asked a question about our political aspirations. We want to run for office, start with something on the local level and get our feet wet. And we’re still researching it.”
Fulton and Martin, who divorced in 1999 but came together as activists after Trayvon’s death, have been discussing their political runs this week on national news and “The Daily Show With Trevor Noah.” In 2017’s uncertain political climate, they say the timing is right: It’s been five years to the month since then 28-year-old Zimmerman killed their unarmed son, who was walking home on a rainy Sanford evening carrying fruit juice and a bag of Skittles. After a brief struggle in the grass of a darkened neighborhood, Zimmerman shot Trayvon in the chest. Zimmerman wasn’t arrested at first, sparking national protests, and was acquitted of second-degree murder after a short 2013 trial.
Thanks to an orchestrated media blitz by the parents’ attorneys, Fulton and Martin write in “Rest in Power,” Trayvon’s death quickly caught the nation’s attention, along with debates and, eventually, inspired the Black Lives Matter movement. But much of the 330-page book relates their immediate anguish, as Fulton, a Miami-Dade government employee, and Martin, a truck driver, are propelled into protest rallies and courtrooms, fighting to preserve Trayvon’s image.
“The defense put Trayvon on trial,” Fulton writes toward the end of the book, which recaps Zimmerman’s trial. “And now our nation had been put on trial by a global community that, like our family, was not willing to accept that an adult man could shoot an unarmed seventeen-year-old walking home from a convenience store in a hoodie and walk away free.”
“It doesn’t feel like five years for me,” says Fulton, who with her ex-husband started the nonprofit Trayvon Martin Foundation, headquartered at Florida Memorial University in Miami Gardens, to advocate for families and to stop gun violence. “I can’t say that I’ve mourned properly.”
“I’m going to miss seeing Trayvon go to prom, graduate high school, graduate college, get his first job and get married,” Fulton says. “It’s just so fresh in my heart, and people think it’s going to get easier and easier, but it doesn’t. I keep myself occupied with what I’m doing, and that’s why it’s important to reach out to their mothers, to advocate, to fight. It’s taken the sting out of what I’m going through.”
Fulton and the Mothers of the Movement, a group of mothers of children killed by gun violence, campaigned for Hillary Clinton last summer at the Democratic National Convention. In an interview with USA Today on Sunday, Martin called out President Trump, whose administration posted on the White House website that “the dangerous anti-police atmosphere in America is wrong. The Trump administration will end it."
“It seems like Trump wants to go backwards and not forwards,” Martin says. “When [the Trump administration] makes certain comments, when you say we’re not being nice to police, think about how we’re putting our hands up and still getting shot and killed. We’re getting choked out and killed. We need Black Lives Matter. We need these movements. What else can we do?”
Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin will appear 5-8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 4, at the Lou Rawls Theatre at Florida Memorial University, 15800 NW 42nd Ave., in Miami Gardens, and 6:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 6, at Miami-Dade College – Wolfson Auditorium, 300 NE Second Ave., in Miami. Admission is free. Call 305-442-4408 or go to BooksAndBooks.com.
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