Sybrina Fulton encourages audience to “continue to speak up” against racial injustices

By Jenny Hudak

Sybrina Fulton encourages audience to “continue to speak up” against racial injustices

By Jenny Hudak
In a moderated discussion as part of Student Government’s “What Matters to U” speaker series, Sybrina Fulton, mother of the late Trayvon Martin and political advocate, shared words of encouragement about overcoming adversity and tackling social justice on Thursday evening.

Student Government’s thought-provoking speaker series “What Matters to U” returned in a virtual format on Thursday evening. Sybrina Fulton, a political advocate who turned the tragic murder of her son Trayvon Martin into political activism, shared words of encouragement and resilience. The conversation, moderated by Osamudia James, a professor of law and Dean’s Distinguished Scholar at the University of Miami Law School, and Abigail Adeleke, president of Student Government, was live-streamed to a virtual audience. 

“[Fulton's] message not only appeals to people’s hearts as it relates to children but is also one of hope and change,” Spencer Schwartz, chair of the Student Government What Matters to U planning agency said as she opened the event. 

Fulton, a Miami native, discussed how she established the Trayvon Martin Foundation following her son’s violent death in 2012 to bring awareness to ending senseless gun violence and strengthening families through holistic support and mentorship. Despite the struggle of losing her son, Fulton now dedicates her life to political activism. 

“My vision is different. I’m not a career politician; I’m a citizen. I see things differently, and I realized the best thing I can do is try,” Fulton said about the onset of her career as an advocate.  

Although she never intended to be the voice for her son, she recognized her unique opportunity to step up to the challenge and realized she had to rise to the occasion. 

“I just wanted my son back, I didn’t want to use my voice,” she shared. “I looked myself in the mirror and told myself I am strong and so it became.”  

Within months, Fulton’s efforts shifted from a local level to a national effort to address gun violence through her involvement with Mothers of the Movement, a political organization she created following her son’s death. Mothers of the Movement provides emotional support and empowerment to mothers who have suffered the loss of a child to senseless gun violence, encouraging them to come together while working with politicians to enact real change. 

“Through everything, it was very important to me that [the mothers] stay connected,” Fulton said. “I don’t ever want a mother that feels alone. It’s too easy for these mothers to feel that way.” 

Speaking on the recent protests for social change in the wake of the death of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement, Fulton discussed the injustices Americans are witnessing in the criminal justice system. She acknowledged that she believes progress is happening, but it cannot stop. 

“Even though it’s small progress, we have to rejoice in the fact that things are changing. It’s too easy to give up; we have to keep pressing forward,” Fulton said. “[The justice system] wasn’t intended for us, for people of color, and we have to understand that it does not make sense. This is why we can’t give up; we have to continue to fight for our people.” 

Fulton went on to answer audience questions submitted by students about finding your cause, speaking up, and the importance of voting.  

“Your vote is your voice; you have to exercise your right to vote. I’m just doing my part, and I simply believe that,” Fulton said. “Continue to speak up, we all have our inner circles and we need to speak up.” 

Julian Crosby, a sophomore studying motion pictures and international studies, tuned in to the virtual event. “The discussion was powerful beyond words,” he said. “Her testimony as an activist and politician spoke to more than just the Black students at UM, but rather resonated with every student and faculty member who has had to overcome adversity to fight for what is fair and right.” 

Crosby added that he felt inspired and motivated by Fulton’s message to young people. 

"All of us can contribute to making this world a better place in our own individual way. We can find some way to improve the world through your specific gift; the world needs young lawyers, filmmakers, and activists to shape the future of this globe."