Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin had already been confronted with their worst nightmare in February when their 17-year-old son, Trayvon Martin, was killed. Over the month since, their personal trauma has intensified as George Zimmerman, the man who shot the unarmed teen, has not been arrested. Meanwhile, their son's school records (such as a suspension for having an empty "marijuana baggie") have been leaked, along with Zimmerman's account of the shooting, sparking discussion that the teenager had it coming.
Pushing back, the parents have made countless media appearances, testified before Congress and spoken at rallies to stay in front of the story and defend their child. Martin and Fulton spoke again in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday night, at a reception hosted by the website Politic365.com, which honored the grieving parents as "Game Changers" for their determination.
"We started off fighting for justice for Trayvon. We realize that it's a bigger picture now," a tearful Fulton told a roomful of attendees, including Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.) and Rep. Corrine Brown (D-Fla.), gathered at the downtown reception. "It's about more than Trayvon Martin. There are other kids, and other adults, that have had injustice done to them. We're going to keep up our fight; we're never going to stop."
Trayvon's father thanked the crowd for their support and prayers.
The Rev. Al Sharpton also took the podium to commend Martin and Fulton. "To honor the parents means a lot to them, but [also] to all of us who engage in the struggle with them," said Sharpton. "Every time you fight a case, they try to smear the victim so that the one that ought to be the focus can escape through the smoke … They've handled it with dignity, integrity, and have made us proud."
The parents' attorney, Benjamin Crump, expressed his alarm that they're in such an ordeal at all. "This is not something they ever could have planned for, that they were going to have to do all of this to get simple justice," said Crump. "We're not asking for them to do anything extraordinary. Somebody killed your child in cold blood, and he's unarmed — you just expect for the police to arrest him. They want nothing more, nothing less — just simple justice."
Fulton added, however, that some light has come through the darkness in the support they have received from across the nation. "We've started some dialogue to get strategies in place, so we can make changes," she said. "So this does not happen to another young, African-American child."
Cynthia Gordy is The Root's Washington reporter.