NEW YORK -Sabrina and Tracy Martin, the mother and father of slain teenager Trayvon Martin, are parents in pain; a soft-spoken, spiritual couple on a crusade for truth and justice.
“We just want to do what’s right,” Tracy Martin told BlackAmericaWeb in an exclusive interview. “We just want to do the right thing.”
For Martin, the “right thing” is sharing a message that Trayvon was a victim, not the aggressor or a thug; that he was good son who was shot and killed by an overzealous self-imposed neighborhood watch leader.
I met Sabrina and Tracy Martin last week in New York during Rev. Al Sharpton’s 15th annual National Action Network conference where thousands of black Americans from coast to coast gathered to be inspired and empowered.
As I spoke with Tracy and Sabrina, I saw parents who are still struggling with the loss of their only child – as any parent would – but I also witnessed the dignity in which they are handling this sad and highly public tragedy.
Faith and their commitment to justice seem to keep them going. They are humble, gracious and loving people and they know the upcoming trial on June 10 will take a lot of out of them, emotionally and psychologically.
“It’s very challenging,” Tracy Martin told me. “We have a long way to go.”
George Zimmerman is charged with second-degree murder in the 2012 shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. Zimmerman says he shot Trayvon in self-defense after he saw the young man acting suspiciously in his neighborhood in Sanford, Florida.
“Our kids are still defined by the color of their skin,” Sabrina Martin said.
Sabrina and Tracy didn’t ask to be in the spotlight; they were forced into the glare of the cameras when Zimmerman killed their son.
Some call the Martins celebrities, but watching them walk through the crowded conference, which was packed with African American men and women of all ages, it was clear that Tracy and Sabrina don’t crave public attention. They only want to tell folks the truth about Trayvon.
The timing for the Martin’s appearance at Rev. Sharpton’ conference couldn’t have been more significant. Forty-five years after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Martin was focused on urban gun violence and the legislative push for tougher gun laws.
Many black folks worry that Zimmerman could be acquitted if the jury is comprised of racially-insensitive residents.
They have grounds for concern.
Ironically, on the day the Martins appeared at the NAN conference in New York, a Florida police officer quit after making a racist remark while discussing the Trayvon Martin shooting case with fellow officers.
Police Lt. Ron Johnson retired after saying “This is why they should be drowned at birth,” referring to black people. Johnson made his remarks during a police briefing in February.
But inside the First Corinthians Baptist Church in Harlem on Saturday, at the final workshop during the NAN conference, a distinguished panel of African American leaders talked about a modern-day social justice campaign, “Measuring the Movement,” that has also embraced Sabrina and Tracy Martin.
Moderated by Rev. Al Sharpton, panelists included Marc Morial, president of the National Urban League, Rev. Jesse Jackson; Roslyn Brock, chair of the NAACP’s national board of directors; Melanie Campbell, President & CEO, National Coalition on Black Civic Participation; and Dr. Lezli Baskerville, President & CEO, National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education.
“We can’t relax and act like the struggle is over or we’ll end up worse than when we started,” said Sharpton, who reminded the audience that Saturday’s conference was being held on the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s historic March on Washington.
Meanwhile, Brock told the audience that she’s concerned about too many young black students dropping out of college and black men and women disproportionately dying from AIDS. She also said there are too many black men dying from urban gun violence.
Brock said black Americans are quick to protest when police shoot innocent black men, “but when we turn guns on ourselves, we have to have the same outrage.”
I hope Brock’s message resonates with black people everywhere.
"Million Hoodie" Candlelight vigil held in honor of Trayvon Martin in NYC
1. Million Hoodie Candlelight Vigil Honoring Trayvon Martin1 of 9
2. Million Hoodie Candlelight Vigil Honoring Trayvon Martin2 of 9
3. Million Hoodie Candlelight Vigil Honoring Trayvon Martin3 of 9
4. Million Hoodie Candlelight Vigil Honoring Trayvon Martin4 of 9
5. Million Hoodie Candlelight Vigil Honoring Trayvon Martin5 of 9
6. Jamie Foxx at the Million Hoodie Candlelight Vigil Honoring Trayvon Martin6 of 9
7. Trayvon's parents at the Million Hoodie Candlelight Vigil Honoring Trayvon Martin7 of 9
8. Jamie Foxx at the Million Hoodie Candlelight Vigil Honoring Trayvon Martin8 of 9
9. Tracy Martin, Sabrina Fulton, Attorney Benjamin Crump, Dr. Michael Eric Dyson at the Vigil9 of 9