ADRIAN FREEMAN/AFREEMAN PHOTOGRAPHY
"Our grief doesn't define us; it propels us to do something to bring change. We would come together as a circle."
God continued embracing me by leading me into a dream. In that dream, I saw myself in an endless field of purple.
And I saw women. Women crying in agony and sorrow. They were lost and alone, even while they were somehow together. Then, suddenly, I saw them smiling and hugging one another in support. I somehow knew that these ladies were mothers. And I knew that, just like me, they were mothers who had lost their children to senseless gun violence. And while they once felt alone, they now had one another.
I saw these mothers sitting together in a circle in an enormous room. Then I saw them sitting together before tables filled with flowers, and everything was nice and pretty. There were different speakers coming up to speak to them. I had no clue what all of this meant. But I knew that it was a vision that God had given to me.
When I awoke, I grabbed the pen and paper I had begun sleeping with each night. I had to do something to help the mothers, women who, like me, had lost their children to violence. Mothers who, in shockingly increasing numbers, would soon form a sorority of sorts. I would find a way to unite this sorority, once joined only by sorrow, in support.
I would find a way to help the mothers work toward a common goal: to show that our grief doesn’t define us; it propels us to do something to bring change. We would come together as a circle, because a circle is a symbol of unity and struggle—a circle never ends.
The event we launched would be called the Circle of Mothers. The participants were 50 mothers whose names you would never have known except for the children they lost—50 mothers whose children had been cut down, 50 mothers now on a mission in the hope of ensuring that the violence doesn’t touch other mothers, other fathers, other families.
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Although I pray that not one more mother is added to our group, the weekends have been the most inspiring events of my life. We share our stories and our grief. We cry, we remember and we support one another. We honor our children’s lives by not just dwelling on their deaths.
At [our] first event, we were inspired by the words of our keynote speaker, the late Afeni Shakur, and were led by Lisa Nichols, who would later say she “guided the healing” by celebrating the mothers’ lives “versus only focusing on their loss.” After it was over, we bonded as both mothers and sisters, emerging closer and stronger and determined to bring about change. Soon after that, [Trayvon’s father] Tracy led a similar event for the fathers, called the Circle of Fathers.
Today the Trayvon Martin Foundation lives on in my son’s name through various programs and initiatives ranging from teaching kids Trayvon’s age what to do and how to act if confronted by the police or other figures of authority to holding our annual Circle of Mothers and Circle of Fathers weekends.
Even as the killings continue and the number of parents who have lost children continues to rise, we as mothers and fathers continue to support one another as members of a community that shares a parent’s worst nightmare: the inconceivable tragedy of losing a child.
All I wanted was to be a mother, to work at my job and raise my kids and live a normal life. Then my son was killed and my world went with him, and God led me to another place, another world and another life. I became a mother on a mission. A mission to bring awareness and change. So that the killing of Trayvon Martin would stand for something, so that the killing will someday stop and the healing will begin.
So that our children, and your children, can live in peace.
Reprinted from Rest in Power: The Enduring Life of Trayvon Martin by Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin. Copyright © 2017 by Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin. To be published by Spiegel & Grau, an imprint of Random House, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC. All rights reserved.
This feature originally appeared in the February 2017 Issue of ESSENCE Magazine.
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