As Chicago dealt with yet another deadly weekend of violence where 10 people were killed and nearly three dozen injured, the parents of slain Florida teen Trayvon Martin were in town to talk about the impact of gun violence on communities. Speaking at the national headquarters for the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition, Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton choked back tears as they told their story of being the parents of a murdered teen.
“As any of you know as parents, or family members of slain victims, to look at a crime scene photo, it’s very disturbing,” said Martin. “It was certainly very disturbing to see that picture of my son on the ground dead. That will be ingrained in my memory for the rest of my life.”
Trayvon’s father said he is even more disappointed that unlike the situation with his son, most Black males being killed are the victims of other Black males.
Trayvon, 17, was shot by neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman in February. Zimmerman is of mixed heritage. “While the race of the killer really does little to change anything when a person dies; because death is death, we should still be concerned when we look at the number of young Black men dying at the hands of their fellow brothers,” Martin said.
Fulton said every day is a struggle for her and Trayvon’s father and siblings. She said while the family has been in the public spotlight as a show of solidarity, in private they still are grieving Trayvon’s death like thousands of other families across the country who have lost loved ones. Fulton said she and Martin feel it is their duty as parents to keep Trayvon’s case in the public’s conscious to see that justice is done.
“We are the voice of Trayvon Martin…He’s not here to speak for himself so we as his parents have decided instead of sitting back and not doing anything, this is what we have decided to do, to help our community and to help other parents,” Fulton said.
She also added that all of America can play a role in reducing violence. Fulton said since her son’s death, she has heard from people from all communities who are outraged, not just the African American community. She said the outpouring of support has helped the family and she is trying to use that positive energy to make big changes in society’s behavior.
“I think for too long some people have looked at the violence in America as mostly an African American and Latino issue,” Fulton said. “I believe more people are seeing that violence is everywhere and you have to care about violence in other communities not just what is happening in your own neighborhood.”
Trayvon’s parents, along with their attorney Benjamin Crump, participated in a forum about violence in the Black community. Crump said the solution to the problems facing the Black community will come from within and outside the community.
Nearly 30,000 people a year die as a result of gun violence in the United States, according to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. An additional 100,000 people a year are injured, requiring emergency medical treatment and hospitalization, which contributes to the strain being put on public health agencies around the country.
“If it can happen to my son, it can happen to your son,” Crump said. “None of us are safe until all of us are safe.”
Fulton said she believes part of the problem of violence is racial profiling that takes place by police and by individuals like Zimmerman. She said she believes if her son was white, he would have never been followed by Zimmerman that night in Florida when Trayvon was killed. She said she believes Zimmerman followed Trayvon because of his race or what he was wearing, which led to the confrontation between the two that should have never ensued.
Due to worldwide scrutiny of how the initial investigation was handled and a special prosecutor being brought in, Zimmerman has since been charged with second degree murder in Florida. He is currently out on bail. Fulton said that day in February was the worst day of her life. “I really didn’t believe it. That is the worst call a mother can get is to hear that your child is dead,” she said.
Tracy Martin grew up in public housing complexes in downstate East St. Louis. Before speaking in Chicago he and Ms. Fulton appeared at an anti-violence rally there. Martin said the community has lost its spiritual compass and understanding of the value for education to getting a good job to raise a family on.
“We have to take the guns away, but we have to replace them with something. It starts with God and love. We have to get back to family love, family values. Then we need jobs. And we have to give them a book, an education. Without education, it’s a lost cause.”