Sybrina Fulton, the mother of Trayvon Martin, wrote a touching and depressing letter to the family of Michael Brown, the unarmed African-American teenager gunned down by Officer Darren Wilson of the Ferguson, MO police. As was the case with Martin, police and right-wing media are working overtime to demonize the murdered young man.
At the same time as they revealed the name of Brown’s murderer, police released a video that purportedly shows Brown committing a “strong-arm robbery” of a box of cigarillos. However, some have pointed out that, when one zooms in, it appears Brown paid for his goods. The Ferguson Market has spoken out through its legal team, clarifying that neither the owner nor any employee called police to report a robbery–it was in fact a customer who called.
Police claim that Brown attempted to grab Officer Wilson’s gun and assaulted him, and have managed–long after the murder–to find “witnesses” who claim that the teenager charged the officer. However, that narrative does not match the results of an independent autopsy that revealed that there is “no evidence of a struggle” between the teenager and Wilson. At least one bullet entered “back-to-front,” which is consistent with witness testimony that Wilson shot Brown in the back before the teenager turned around, raised his arms in surrender, and was subsequently fired on multiple times. A wound on the inside of Brown’s arm, according to Dr. Michael Baden, is consistent with the teenager raising his arms.
We’ll never know the exact circumstances, as Ferguson has avoided paying to install dash cameras and utilize body cameras for officers, but we do know this: an unarmed teenager was gunned down by a police officer in the street in the middle of the day.
Sybrina Fulton wrote in a letter to the Brown family, delivered via TIME that “If they refuse to hear us, we will make them feel us.”
To The Brown Family,
I hate that you and your family must join this exclusive yet growing group of parents and relatives who have lost loved ones to senseless gun violence. Of particular concern is that so many of these gun violence cases involve children far too young. But Michael is much more than a police/gun violence case; Michael is your son. A son that barely had a chance to live. Our children are our future so whenever any of our children – black, white, brown, yellow, or red – are taken from us unnecessarily, it causes a never-ending pain that is unlike anything I could have imagined experiencing.
Further complicating the pain and loss in this tragedy is the fact that the killer of your son is alive, known, and currently free. In fact, he is on paid administrative leave. Your own feelings will bounce between sorrow and anger. Even when you don’t want to think about it because it is so much to bear, you will be forced to by merely turning on your television or answering your cell phone. You may find yourselves pulled in many different directions by strangers who may be well-wishers or detractors. Your circle will necessarily close tighter because the trust you once, if ever, you had in “the system” and their agents are forever changed. Your lives are forever changed.
However with those changes come new challenges and opportunities. You will experience a swell of support from all corners of the world. Many will express their sympathies and encourage you to keep fighting for Michael. You will also, unfortunately, hear character assassinations about Michael which I am certain you already have. This will incense and insult you. All of this will happen before and continue long after you have had the chance to lay your son to rest.
I know this because I lived and continue to live this. I have devoted my life to the comprehensive missions of The Trayvon Martin Foundation – including providing support to families that have lost a young child to senseless gun violence regardless of race, ethnicity or gender. I will support you and your efforts to seek justice for your Michael and the countless other Michaels & Trayvons of our country. The 20 Sandy Hook children. Jordan Davis. Oscar Grant. Kendrick Johnson. Sean Bell. Hadya Pendleton. The Aurora shooting victims. The list is too numerous to adequately mention them all. According to The Children’s Defense Fund, gun violence is the second leading cause of death for children ages 1-19. That is a horrible fact.
Facts, myths, and flat out lies are already out there in Michael’s case. Theories, regardless of how ridiculous, are being pondered by the pundits. My advice is to surround yourselves with proven and trusted support. Through it all, I never let go of my faith, my family, or my friends. Long after the overwhelming media attention is gone, you will need those three entities to find your ‘new normal.’ Honor your son and his life, not the circumstances of his alleged transgressions. I have always said that Trayvon was not perfect. But no one will ever convince me that my son deserved to be stalked and murdered. No one can convince you that Michael deserved to be executed.
But know this: neither of their lives shall be in vain. The galvanizations of our communities must be continued beyond the tragedies. While we fight injustice, we will also hold ourselves to an appropriate level of intelligent advocacy. If they refuse to hear us, we will make them feel us. Some will mistake that last statement as being negatively provocative. But feeling us means feeling our pain; imagining our plight as parents of slain children. We will no longer be ignored. We will bond, continue our fights for justice, and make them remember our children in an appropriate light. I would hate to think that our lawmakers and leaders would need to lose a child before protecting the rest of them and making the necessary changes NOW…
With Heartfelt Support,
Sybrina D. Fulton