One of the saddest moments in American judicial history was when Sybrina Fulton took the stand in the George Zimmerman murder trial and was asked to name her children. A year removed from the horrific killing of her child, Ms. Fulton said his name: “my youngest son is Trayvon Benjamin Martin. He’s in heaven.”
And with that description of her baby, the gravity of this globally-recognized tragedy struck like a sledgehammer to the chest.
I remember the first notification I got about Trayvon’s killing in 2012. It was an email from Change.org petitioning for the arrest of George Zimmerman. This was just before the story began trending all over news networks, and when I read the details of what happened, I sensed that it would be a story that would garner a great deal of attention.
I did not however suspect that it would be the impetus for a 21st-century global movement for racial equality, centered around humanizing Black life.
What we now know as Black Lives Matter was birthed out of advocacy for Trayvon Martin. In a case of predatory hunt-and-kill orchestrated by a wanna-be cop neighborhood watchman, it seemed as if justice for Trayvon would be easily obtained given the details of the incident.
George Zimmerman stalked and racially profiled Trayvon. George Zimmerman was advised by police to not follow Trayvon. George Zimmerman confronted and provoked a physical altercation with Trayvon. George Zimmerman discharged his weapon and killed Trayvon.
And then, George Zimmerman was acquitted of murder.
Nearly a decade has gone by since Sanford, Florida became the host site of a racially-charged hate crime that drew parallels to the deaths of Emmett Till and George Stinney. Since a fire was sparked that ignited a new generation of millions of activists and advocates across the globe.
Trayvon Benjamin Martin was born on February 5, 1995, died on February 26, 2012, and was born again in the modern-day fight for Black lives. His voice, echoing in every chant. His fight for his life, the raised fists in every march. His future plans to be a pilot, the inspiration for an elevated consciousness for so many of us who had been on cruise control while coasting the poisonous atmosphere of American racism.
Today, Trayvon would be 26. Presumably a college graduate two times over. Maybe he would have weaned himself off of Arizona tea except for special occasions, like his birthday. When he would just want temporary reprieve from adult responsibilities, and to feel like a kid again.
But he died as a child at the hands of a man that has proven himself to be a raging menace ever since he left that courtroom exonerated. However, Trayvon’s legacy is more than the wild game of George Zimmerman’s hunting. It is a legacy tied to the reawakening of us.
Happy 26th, Trayvon. Your unintentional sacrifice reminded us that our humanity deserves defense, preservation and unrelenting advocacy. I hope the universe is kind to you for the remainder of eternity. I hope the heaven your mother pictures you in is celebrating in your honor.
About the Author
Donney Rose is a poet, essayist, Kennedy Center Citizen Artist Fellow, advocate, and Chief Content Editor at The North Star. He believes in telling how it is and how it should be