Today marks the day that would have been the 25th birthday of Trayvon Martin, the young Black man who was gunned down by neighborhood watch vigilante George Zimmerman.
Martin was visiting his father, Tracy Martin, in Sanford, Florida, in February 2012. Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch captain in the area, called 911 to report “a suspicious person” in the neighborhood.
Zimmerman was instructed not to get out of his SUV or approach the person, but he ignored the instructions. Moments later, Zimmerman gunned down 17-year-old Martin, who was wearing a hoodie and clutching a bag of Skittles, with a can of Arizona watermelon fruit juice cocktail in the hoodie’s center pocket.
Zimmerman was acquitted on all charges related to Martin’s shooting after claiming that he shot Martin in self-defense during a scuffle. He had faced charges of second-degree murder and manslaughter.
Martin’s tragic killing sparked his mother, Sybrina Fulton, into becoming a civil rights activist.
“I did it out of anger,” she told The Guardian in 2017. “When Tracy [Trayvon’s father, Tracy Martin] called me and said the police were not going to arrest the person who shot and killed Trayvon – although they had [him], they had the gun, and they were clear what had happened – I was in disbelief. That evening, I headed to Sanford. I could not believe they were going to let this person get away with murder.”
Fulton was one of seven mothers who sat down with “Good Morning America” in July to share the stories of the children they lost and their journeys as Black mothers in America.
Despite her immense loss, Fulton’s outlook remains positive:
“I felt like I was never going to be happy again. I went from being happy 95% of the time to being sad 95% of the time. For me, the thought of not having his pictures up and then all of a sudden having someone put them my face was triggering and I knew that was going to make me sad,” she shared.
“So I leave pictures of Trayvon around my house. When I first started out, the hoodie would make me sad. Now, when I see a hoodie, like the one Trayvon was wearing when he died, I smile about it because I’ve trained and re-programmed myself to say, “That’s in memory of my son.” You just have to do things in memory of your son or your daughter, and you just have to think about the good times.”
Happy birthday, Trayvon.