Use My Story to Enact Change, Trayvon Martin’s Mother Tells a Packed Crowd in Philly

Sybrina Fulton denounced Stand Your Ground, didn't use George Zimmerman's name.

The crowded ballroom, filled with a mix of National Urban League members and press, had already sat through an hour of speeches from sponsors and awards for members during the Guild Leadership Luncheon today at the 2013 National Urban League Conference at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. But the murmuring of the crowd seated at their tables and the clanking of silverware came to a halt when when the mother of Trayvon Martin prepared to take the stage.

From the moment Sybrina Fulton’s name was announced as the next speaker, the audience began to applaud her. The claps continued intermittently throughout her short speech and followed her as she left the stage, flanked by security guards as she returned to her table.

She opened with a Bible quote from Proverbs, and God was a strong presence in Fulton’s speech as she credited the lord with giving her the strength to continue following the death of her son, and using her and her family to enact change in their community.

But Fulton focussed on her son and on the pain of losing him, saying it left her feeling like “a broken vessel.” The pain didn’t detract from the force of her message, as she reminded the audience that Trayvon was not only her son, but their son as well. Making her point, Fulton recounted the touching story of giving her business card, which features a picture of Martin on the back, to her driver on her way to the luncheon. When he looked at the picture, she said, he told her that he was his son too. She emphasized that Martin could have been anyone’s child and urged people to act — and to use her story — as a tool to ensure that there were would be no more tragedies like her son’s.

She mentioned the controversial trial of George Zimmerman only briefly and refrained from using Zimmerman’s name at all. Instead she bemoaned that her son’s future was taken from him because of “a law that has prevented the person who shot and killed [him] to be held accountable and to pay for his awful crime” and said the “verdict is not going to decide who Trayvon was.”

Fulton also stayed largely away from the issue of race, a subject closely tied to the case, saying, “I know that regardless of the color of somebody else’s skin, that somebody is listening, that somebody wants to act, and somebody wants to react.”

Although the speech was short, it fit well with the luncheon’s focus on community action. Fulton promoted her organization, founded in Trayvon’s name, which advocates on behalf of victims’s families and educates on the subject of profiling and conflict resolution.