Nearly two years after he was fatally shot by a neighborhood watch volunteer, Trayvon Martin was remembered Saturday at a celebration of his life in Miami Gardens that drew hundreds of supporters and a plea from his parents to end gun violence.
Martin, a black teen from Miami Gardens, was unarmed when he was shot in Sanford, Fla., on Feb. 26, 2012, by George Zimmerman, an Hispanic man who pleaded self-defense. Zimmerman was later acquitted, but the shooting and the not guilty verdict sparked nationwide outrage, and demands for Florida’s Stand Your Ground law to be repealed.
“We continue to lose our children and we must do something about that,” said Trayvon’s mother, Sybrina Fulton.
“It has been 712 long days since Trayvon was killed,” said Trayvon‘s father, Tracy Martin. “If there is any good about it, it’s that you all are keeping his name alive. You all are our strength.”
But the day was not about them, Martin said. It’s about their son, whose birthday was Wednesday (he would have turned 19), and the foundation set up to honor his memory and educate youngsters on conflict-resolution techniques.
“Since it’s gun violence, it doesn’t discriminate; it doesn’t matter the age, the ethnicity,” said Kim McCray, executive director for the foundation, which sponsored the “Peace Walk and Peace Summit.”
To drive home the message, the foundation invited the relatives of several children killed during gun violence. Among them: a relative of Emmett Till, the 14-year-old African-American boy whose murder in Mississippi in 1955 became a lighting rod in the civil rights movement; and parents Kenneth and Jacquelyn Johnson. Their son, Kendrick, was found dead in January 2012 inside a rolled-up wrestling mat in his high school gym in Georgia.
Lauding the foundation’s efforts, Miami-Dade Commissioner Barbara Jordan told the crowd, “We have to make sure we get rid of the Stand Your Ground legislation because it’s being used to legally kill our children.”
Jordan represents Miami Gardens, a city plagued by gun-related deaths. Among its victims, 12-year-old Tequila Forshee. She was killed last year after a barrage of bullets ripped through her grandmother’s Miami Gardens living room as she was getting her hair braided for school. Her relatives attended the summit.
“These senseless crimes that are being committed in the area need to stop,” Jordan said.
The day began with several hundred participants walking from Carol City Park, 3201 NW 185 St., to the Betty T. Ferguson Recreational Complex, 3000 NW 199 Street, wearing T-shirts emblazoned with Trayvon’s image and shouting, “I am Trayvon.”
During the summit, there were gospel music, dance troupes and inspirational words by Trayvon’s parents, local elected officials, syndicated radio personality Michael Baisden and actor Jamie Foxx, among others.
“They say ‘Jamie why you got that Trayvon Martin shirt on? That ain’t in no more,’ ” Foxx, wearing a T-shirt with Trayvon Martin’s face on it, said after taking the stage. “I say, ‘Well, Trayvon Martin’s still dead; and his mother still grieves, his father still grieves, his brother is still wondering ‘Where’s my brother at?’ ”
Foxx said he doesn’t consider himself an activist but a parent and gun owner who wants people to understand their responsibilities.
“What we are all supposed to do is protect our kids no matter what,” said the Academy Award winning actor.
“We’re in a culture where things are sort of getting out of control,” Foxx later said, calling for responsible gun ownership. “When you see gun violence sprouting up, like in Tampa where the guy is in a movie theater and dead from texting, we’re starting to forget that guns actually kill. We’re starting to get desensitized to it,” he said. “How can we be a society with guns, and responsible with guns?” how can we be more responsible.”
Fulton told the crowd that it’s been difficult and that she, Martin and surviving son Jahvaris Fulton, “don’t look like what we’ve been through.”
“You can never heal from losing a child,” said Trayvon’s father. “God took us there to bring us through.”
As for Zimmerman, who recently made news about participating in a celebrity boxing match, Fulton said, “We’re not interested in what George Zimmerman is doing. We’re interested in the Trayvon Martin Foundation.”