"Even 50 years ago Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was struggling with gun violence, which ultimately led to his death," says Fulton.
Sybrina Fulton will be among the thousands who will honor the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington by joining the National Action to Realize the Dream rally this Saturday, August 24. Two months after George Zimmerman was found not guilty of second-degree murder, Fulton will continue her pursuit for justice there on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.
She spoke with ESSENCE.com about honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement, and the connection between Trayvon Martin and Emmett Till.
ESSENCE: You’re gearing up to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. What do you hope people will get out of the Realize the Dream rally?
Sybrina Fulton: I think it’s good for all of us to come together and connect for a meaningful purpose. I feel like bringing our families together is necessary. Even 50 years ago Dr. Martin Luther King was struggling with gun violence, which ultimately led to his death. Subsequent to that we’ve had a number of people who have died of senseless gun violence. This is a chance for us to raise our voices.
ESSENCE: What would you say to someone still mulling over whether or not to attend the rally this Saturday?
Fulton: This is the chance of a lifetime. I don’t know if people will do anything like this for another 50 years. The time is now to stand up for what you believe in.
ESSENCE: What role has the civil rights movement and the March on Washington played in your life overall?
Fulton: I think it paved the way for other marches and set the tone for peaceful protest. It was one of the first times people of all races stood together for something they believed it. I’m hoping we can recreate it.
ESSENCE: It’s been a short while since George Zimmerman’s not-guilty verdict. How are you and your family coping?
Fulton: Since that time I’ve learned a valuable lesson and that is there is a lot of work that needs to be done. There are a lot more forums and panels we need, a lot more prayers and a lot more marching in order for us to change the law to benefit everybody, not just some. I was very disappointed in the verdict, as you can imagine. A lot of people were not only disappointed but also surprised that there are people out there that don’t see how important it is to look out for our children. That’s why it’s important that I keep speaking out, that I keep fighting because I think we’re putting a face to an issue. Gun violence is not something new; we’re trying to be the best example that we can in order to fight for our son and many more. I don’t think Trayvon was a super teenager or he was any better than any other teenager. We’ve always said he’s just an average teenager. As average parents, we think it’s important for us to fight for our children.
ESSENCE: You’ve also started the Trayvon Martin Foundation. What is your mission?
Fulton: The foundation was created to turn a negative in our lives into a positive by bringing awareness to how gun violence impacts the victims and their families. We want to help other families know that they’re not standing alone against gun violence. We also want to change the Stand Your Ground law. If not revise it, then repeal it.
ESSENCE: The foundation is hosting a screening of the documentary The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till in Washington D.C. tonight.
Fulton: Other people have made the connection between the Trayvon Martin family and Emmett Till’s because of the similarities in the case even though they were over 50 years apart. I can understand the comparison. They both were teenagers, both were killed senselessly, both families spoke out and both verdicts came back negatively. We reached out to the Emmett Till Foundation about the film because we thought it would be good for young people at the march to see how far we have come, or how far we have not come. More than anything, we want to start a dialogue amongst our young people. We didn’t learn about the Stand Your Ground law until this happened to Trayvon, but I can guarantee you, young people know about it now. We don’t want to wait for another tragedy to happen in order for them to be aware of laws that can possibly affect them.