This time of year, students find themselves preparing for final exams, holiday breaks, and graduation. Even during this busy time of year, students devoted time to hear from a mother who lost a son.
In and out of class, this pivotal moment in 2012 has remained a topic of discussion, when the tragic death of Trayvon Martin sparked the push for justice and reform.
Thursday, after scores of students poured into B.N. Duke Auditorium, Sybrina Fulton, Trayvon’s mother, issued a grave reminder to students:
“You guys are going to inherit this problem.”
Fulton, the guest speaker for the Rock the Mic Lecture Series, urged students to face up to issues of racial profiling and police brutality and to actively seek solutions. One solution, she said, is to bring these issues to light.
“We already know what we’re going through; we need to talk to people who don’t know,” Fulton said.
Although most students don’t have the time or resources needed to start a national movement for change, Fulton explained that each student can still make a difference, and it starts locally.
“You want to do things that make your community prosper,” she said.
One way students can instigate change locally is by the ballot, Fulton said. She challenged “anyone over 18” not only to register to vote, but to stay up-to-date on the candidates and the issues.
“We have to hold our elected officials accountable,” she explained.
As Fulton described what happened on the evening of February 26, 2012, she told students details that they hadn’t heard in the news.
“The worst day of my life was sitting in a church in Miami with my 17 year old son in a casket,” Fulton explained. “A part of me will always be broken.”
As she continued describing the events that led up to Trayvon’s death, Fulton emotionally pointed out reasons why her son didn’t deserve to die:
“My son wasn’t the one who was following and pursuing someone.”
“He didn’t have a loaded gun, chasing someone.”
“He was minding his own business.”
After losing Trayvon, Fulton said she struggled to see anything positive in her situation. That was until her faith brought her out of the dark situation she was in, Fulton explained.
“God built me up,” she said. “God convinced me there was another purpose for what happened to Trayvon.”
It was at that moment, Fulton said, that she realized her purpose.
“I told myself I could do better and speak out for me son,” she said. “I had to speak not only for Trayvon, but for all of you, too.”
Fulton took action. She started the Trayvon Martin Foundation which provides mentoring programs, scholarships, and the “circle of mothers,” a support network for mothers who have lost children in similar situations.
Before concluding, Fulton took time to thank NCCU students for playing a role in bringing attention to Trayvon’s case.
“It was institutions like this one which brought attention to the case by tweeting and posting on Facebook about it,” she said. “We owe you guys.”
Students who were at the event had some strong words to describe the evening with Fulton.
“Powerful,” Jordan Sawyer, a political science sophomore said, reflecting. “She told us a lot of things about the case that I didn’t know before.”
Business senior William Simmons-Stevenson said he took Fulton’s words as a challenge.
“It was motivating,” he explained. “It was a glimpse into what is to come.”