Trayvon Martin’s Mother Opens Up During MLK Jr. Commemoration Event
People gathered at Schwab Auditorium Monday night to celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr. through song, dance, and powerful testimony.
The night began with President Eric Barron addressing the packed auditorium. Barron thanked those in the crowd who chose to spend MLK Jr. Day in an impactful way. “Service is a powerful way to commemorate Dr. King,” President Barron said. “By choosing to take a day on instead of a day off, we are living the vision set forth by Dr. King.”
President Barron also addressed the great importance diversity holds at Penn State. He shared the U.S. Census statistic stating that by 2020, minorities will represent 40 percent of the country’s population. That demographic shift will make its way to Penn State too, according to Barron. “Diversity is an imperative for this university,” he said.
Following President Barron’s address, a group of students took to the stage to perform a completely original number. The dance group Ambitions, the spoken word group Words, and musical theatre student Maria Wirries collaborated on a piece entitled “One More Day.” Wirries wrote the song of the same name, and accompanied the dance and spoken word performances. The piece was incredibly moving, and ended with a standing ovation from all of Schwab Auditorium.
The beautiful student piece left the audience in a somber mood as event host Jerrie Johnson introduced the keynote speaker: Sybrina Fulton, mother of Trayvon Martin. Fulton then took to the stage, and invited the entire audience to enter into a conversation about the past four years of her life. “This is not a case, this is not a story, this is my life,” Fulton said.
Fulton explained to the audience how dramatically her life changed on February 26, 2012, when her son was shot and killed by a neighborhood watchman in Sanford, Florida. Fulton’s life, which she admitted as being extremely average, was turned upside down. “That was the worst day of my life,” Fulton said.
Yet Fulton did not let grief overwhelm her talk in Schwab Auditorium. Instead, she explained how her despair compelled her to speak out. “I did not want to be the spokesperson for my son, but I decided I needed to be the spokesperson for my son.”
After detailing the work she accomplished with her organization, The Trayvon Martin Foundation, Fulton paused to address a question she suspected the audience was asking: does she forgive the man who shot her son almost four years ago. Keeping with the honest and somber tone of the evening, Fulton answered truthfully. “No,” Fulton said. “I’m not a very religious person, but I am spiritual. I know I have to forgive, but I have not gotten to the point where I am ready to forgive. I’m not there yet; I’m still hurting.”
Ultimately, Fulton preached a message of love and acceptance for everyone, regardless of skin color, religion, sexual orientation, or gender. “It does not matter if they’re black white purple or green, you need to respect them and they need to respect you,” Fulton said.