On the evening before the second anniversary of their son’s slaying, Trayvon Martin’s parents were engaged in meetings and calls related to the foundation they created in his name. Less than a year after the man who killed their son was acquitted of second-degree murder, they are focused on other people’s children.
“As we are on the verge of this two-year anniversary, the parents are fighting just as hard today as they did two years ago,” says Kim McCray, the executive director of the Trayvon Martin Foundation. “They have not lost any hope, but every day as [sic] they continue to work to make a change for all children, through the programs they are embarking on through the foundation.”
Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton are aware of the anniversary events and vigils being planned around the country Wednesday – and McCray says the parents “are very grateful to know that these things continue to take place. It’s a constant reminder to the parents that he will never be forgotten. So while there’s nothing official we are doing we are moved by our supporters.” But they plan to stay out of the spotlight.
Martin appeared on Rev. Al Sharpton’s MSNBC program, Politics Nation, Tuesday night – the only media either he or Sybrina Fulton has planned. Sharpton has been at the family’s side throughout the ordeal that began with the failure of the Sanford police to make an arrest in the early weeks of their son’s case.
Martin has remained at his day job while lending his time to the foundation, while Fulton has thrown herself into the effort full-time, poring over the details of their second annual fundraising dinner earlier this month, which followed a peace walk through downtown Miami, flanked by the families of Emmett Till and Oscar Grant, along with actor Jamie Foxx. The foundation has become their life’s work: traveling to Washington to testify before congressional committees on issues of gun violence, planning “peace talk” youth summits to educate kids about gun violence, and preparing to launch an “ambassadors” program that will pair college-aged mentors with elementary school children as young as the fourth grade, to promote character education and conflict resolution.
“The foundation is really where they continue to garner strength,” says McCray. “And through the foundation, they work diligently to help other parents and to help other children.”
“I think the main focus of our advocacy is just educating our communities, our young people,” Tracy Martin said by telephone Tuesday evening. “To assure them that their lives mean something. We want to let it resonate with them: the fact that they are loved, that we are here for them.”
He has grown close to Ron Davis, the father of Jordan Davis, who like Trayvon was just 17 years old when he was shot to death by a stranger in Jacksonville, just nine months after Trayvon was killed a few hundred miles away in Sanford.
“We talk often, and Ron has become a good friend,” says Martin. “My heart goes out to him.”
And while the foundation, which has a charitable designation, takes no position on political issues, including the “Stand Your Ground” law their son’s death brought to national attention, Tracy Martin has clear personal views on the 2005 statute cited publicly by members of the jury in the trial of Jordan’s killer, and which altered the jury instructions in self-defense cases. (Michael Dunn, the 47-year-old man who shot at a car carrying Davis and three friends, was convicted on three counts of attempted second-degree murder and one count of firing into the car, but the jury deadlocked on the first-degree murder charge for the killing of Davis.)
“It’s sad that you can convict a person for shooting at someone but you can’t convict the person for killing someone,” Martin says. “We have to take a good look in the mirror and say, ‘what’s wrong with this picture?’”
Martin hopes his and the Davis parents’ suffering will spark a change in “Stand Your Ground” laws.
“I’m hoping not only in Florida but across this country – in the 26 states that have it they will take a second look,” says Martin. “It’s a bad law. The language of the law isn’t clear, and frankly it’s really affecting us as black people. And although they didn’t use “Stand Your Ground” in these two cases, the instructions to the jury were that they could use this law.”
Martin says he hopes in time his son will be remembered for the young man he truly was — one he often called his best friend.
“I want him to be remembered as a bright, intelligent individual, not just a kid that got killed behind some Skittles and iced tea,” Martin says. “I want him seen as who he was to us. He was creative, innovative a challenge-seeker and a problem solver. I want him remembered for who who he was and what he stood for.”
As for the national conversation about race that was sparked by their son’s death, Martin makes it clear that he believes that Trayvon still has the potential to make a difference in the world.
“I think his legacy should be that when you mention Trayvon, you should visualize one of Dr. King’s sayings, that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. That quote should go right next to his name. I want him to be remembered as the kid that galvanized this country as far as the justice system; who brought this country together.”
Follow Joy Reid on Twitter at @thereidreport.