Sybrina Fulton has given her tragedy a purpose. After her 17-year-old son, Trayvon Martin, was shot and killed by George Zimmerman in Florida in 2012, Fulton launched the Trayvon Martin Foundation to spread awareness about gun violence and its impact on the families of victims.
"So many things can come out of something so negative," she told VIBE over the phone on Thursday (May 8). "I’m using the death of Trayvon to try to help others, create a better community and empower other women."
Nearly a year after Zimmerman was put on trial and acquitted, the wounds still run deep for Fulton. But her focus is uplifting mothers who've lost a child to circumstances beyond their control. Here, she speaks about her forthcoming Circle of Mothers Empowerment retreat in Miami, how Rick Ross has lent his support to the event and her continued fight against "Stand Your Ground" laws.—Adelle Platon
VIBE: It’s been almost a year since the trial. How are you holding up?
Sybrina Fulton: We’re trying to put the trial behind us and move forward with the foundation to leave a legacy for Trayvon Martin and my family.
You're hosting a Circle of Mothers empowerment retreat later this month. What inspired you to put together this event?
It was an idea that I thought of. I got in touch with a coordinator to help me put my vision into actual existence. I meet a lot of people, travel around the country, and it’s just so many parents, so many mothers that are hurting. They walk up to me, tell me their story and I’m like, 'Oh my God, how do I help? What can I do to help this mother heal?" This is what I came up with. It’s helping me by helping and healing other mothers. I thought it was important to do something to help someone else.
Lisa Nichols and Afeni Shakur are also involved in the retreat. What will they be bringing to the table?
They both are very powerful women. I respect them both a great deal. Afeni Shakur is Tupac’s mom, and she wrote an open letter to us, me and my family, months after [Trayvon's death] happened. It was so heartfelt and meaningful that I said [to myself], if I ever did anything to try to help other mothers or other family members that I would make sure to reach out to her, and I did. We reached out to her and she was just so gracious to come be our keynote speaker for our Saturday night empowerment dinner.
I met Lisa Nichols at the Urban League. She and I were both speakers at different times and I had the opportunity to speak to her one-on-one and she just opened up some doors for me. She made me think about some things that I had not thought about, and I want to place that same spirit on other mothers. The name of it is “Circle of Mothers” because I think if we come together as a circle, we come together as mothers, we can bond and help each other.
The story of Trayvon definitely impacted the hip-hop community as well. I heard that Rick Ross was lending his support to this event. How did the foundation reach out to him?
Rick Ross is in Miami, and he’s also in Miami, and we reached out to his folks. I don’t think it was anything miraculous that happened, we just simply reached out to him to see if it was something that he would be interested in supporting and he agreed that this is something worthwhile. We are very appreciative to him and his staff, the assistance that they lent and everything that they have done for the Trayvon Martin Foundation.
Do you think it helps that celebrities, like Kanye West and Kim Kardashian, speak out against racism?
I absolutely think it does. It also helps when we can look at each other and say, Listen there’s good and bad in all. You can’t just look at a group of people, a race, and say that this particular group is bad. It does not make sense. That’s just a form of profiling. But when more of the celebrities and people who are influential speak out and say what's going on about racial profiling, I think more will be done.
As a mother, how do you feel about the hundreds of girls that have been kidnapped in Nigeria?
My heart is broken. I just don’t quite understand it. I’ve seen it on the news, and I just can’t imagine what those mothers are going through, not knowing where their daughters are, what’s going on with them, whether they’re being kidnapped, raped or held for sex slaves. We have no clue if they’re dead or alive, and I know it’s heartbreaking for those mothers to know that there’s so many of them that’s missing right now. They have no clue where they are and how to resolve the issue, but I understand the United States is stepping in and they are going to help out and try to do what they can. My heart just goes out to those mothers.
With the Donald Sterling controversy and his recent lifetime ban from the NBA also on the news, have your thoughts about racism in this country changed?
My thoughts have not changed. I feel like we’ve come a long way as African-Americans, but we still have a long way to go. When we have people who view us as not being equal, as not being the same caliber or status as them, that should be a problem. We are all here. We are all in the same communities. We all are living in this world together. Why hate somebody because of the color of their skin? I just don’t understand that. To have so much hate and animosity for a group of people, a race of people because of the color of their skin just does not make sense.
With the work that you've been doing with the Trayvon Martin Foundation, has there been progress in your fight against the "Stand Your Ground" law? Have you been able to speak to the Obamas about it?
We have spoken to the President and the First Lady. We have spoken to different senates, groups and different committees, so that we can just continue to get the word out because I think one of the big problems was people just wasn’t aware that racial profiling and any kind of profiling was still happening in the United States. I don’t know if their head was buried in the sand or they just didn’t realize that it was still occurring, but it’s still happening. We, the Trayvon Martin Foundation, are bringing more awareness and that’s important because it’s continuing the conversations, continuing the workshops, continuing to reach out and try to do something.
Is there anything you feel that the government should be doing now to help support your cause?
I think the government needs to take a serious look at "Stand Your Ground" and understand that our children have a right to walk in peace without being followed, without being chased, without being profiled. Maybe they don’t understand it and maybe it'll take knocking on their door. I don’t know, but I just say to myself a lot of people don’t understand what’s going on, but they should. They have to open their eyes to what’s happening. When you have a teenager that can’t play the radio too loud, somebody wants to shoot and kill them. You have somebody else that’s in the movie texting and it’s a problem. Everything is going to become a problem and everybody is going to get a gun, and everybody is going to start shooting and we don’t want the world to be the Wild Wild West. We don’t want the world to be so violent. When we try to follow the regular process of the court system, it’s just justice for some. We want to make sure that we have justice for all.