Sybrina Fulton, the mother of slain teenager Trayvon Martin, recently reached out to Tupac Shakur's mother Afeni Shakur and life coach Lisa Nichols to help her facilitate workshops for mothers who have lost their children to gun violence. The result is the “Circle of Mothers Empowerment Retreat" taking place this weekend and spearheaded by the The Trayvon Martin Foundation—which Fulton founded in 2012.
Ahead of the weekend, Fulton and Nichols spoke with ESSENCE.com about their hopes for the retreat and their prayer for any mother who has lost a child to violence.
This weekend is about healing for mothers who have lost children to gun violence. What are some of the ways that you are thinking to help mothers?
Lisa Nichols: We’re going to touch over several areas, but one is just the acknowledgment of their children’s contribution. We're going to celebrate their lives versus only focusing on the loss. We have a loss, but before that, we have a celebration of life. I'm going to have the women really sit and talk about three crazy, funny things that their child has done or times when they just made no sense at all. I want to get us celebrating the life, and then talk about what it means to love, to never lose, to never let go, but also, to move on.
Sybrina, hearing what Lisa has just mentioned, do it resonate with you in terms of what you’ve gone through in the last almost two years since you lost Trayvon?
Sybrina Fulton: Absolutely. I've thought about funny things that [Trayvon] did, but I never thought about his life before. As a grieving mother, you focus on the death and you do it constantly—he's not here, I'm not going to get a chance to see him graduate and go to the prom or go off to college. You think about all of the things that you are not, but what Lisa does is remind me of the things that I did get a chance to see.
What do you both hope to get out of this weekend?
Fulton: I hope to get healing. I want to get a better understanding of how we can move on as mothers. That we're moving on in the right direction, that we are healing in a positive manner, and how to work in the community to try to help other mothers. That's what I am hoping to get out of the retreat.
Nichols: I'm there to facilitate a process. I'm going to guide. I bring my expertise to guide the process of not only healing, but before healing, celebrating, and owning the full story. Not just the end of the story because the end of the story ended to soon and didn't end the way any of us wanted it to end. I want mothers to ask themselves, ‘How can I stand on this story, not in this story?’ Sybrina has asked me to come for a breakthrough, not just to rub healing balm on people’s hearts and souls, which I will do, but also to say, ‘Come on ladies, we’ve got to flex our muscles. You were strong before this happened and God knows if you're sitting here today, you are stronger now.
What is your hope and prayer for any mother that's facing this situation right now?
Fulton: I pray for strength for any mother. I pray for healing. I would just hope that she could return to the life that she had before because it's very difficult. It's like you're missing an arm or leg or something and then you’re supposed to still function without it. You have to really push yourself to say, yes, I can do this! I can keep living! I can go to a party. I can listen to music and be happy. Then you have to listen to the other little voice that is in your head that tells you that I have to do something positive with this, I cannot just break down and cry each and every day. I have to pray, I have to stand up, I have to get up and I have to move on and what can I do to help myself and to try to help others.
Nichols: I hope that each sister who has gone through this experience first remembers the full story. She doesn't just read the tragic ending, but celebrates chapter one. She celebrates the day she gave birth. She celebrates the day she remembers seeing him walk or her talk. Then two, she owns her right to live on. She doesn't stand in the experience but she stands on the experience and it becomes her platform and a reason for living full out. Not her reason for not.
The “Circle of Mothers Empowerment Retreat" takes place this weekend, May 16-18, in Weston, Florida. Tupac Shakur's mother Afeni Shakur will delver the keynote speech on Saturday, May 17. More information on the weekend is available here.