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No Time to Grieve

By Richard B. Muhammad -Editor- | Last updated: Aug 8, 2013 - 12:12:50 PM

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The blood of a martyr and unspoken pain of parents

Atty. Daryl Parks and the family of Trayvon Martin participated in a press conference and forum at the National Association of Black Journalists conference in Orlando, Fla. The family continues to try to serve those hurt by senseless violence through the Trayvon Martin Foundation and is challenging Stand Your Ground laws, which allow for use of deadly force even if an exit is possible.

ORLANDO, Fla. - The blood of the martyr may be sacred but the pain of his loss is deep and lasting for his family.

Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin were everyday people until their 17-year-old son was killed by a single bullet to the heart.

The tragic death of Trayvon Martin ignited protests and forced conversations about race coupled with frank questions about the value of Black life in America.

Sybrina and Tracy’s little boy is widely seen as a slain innocent and his loss a catalyst for renewed Black concern and activism. His death has been compared to the gruesome murder of 14-year-old Emmett Till in 1955. Beaten, shot and dropped off of a Mississippi Bridge with a fan attached to his neck, the Till death was horrific. His grotesque, mutilated body in an open casket ignited the modern civil rights movement.


“Justice for Trayvon!” has become the rallying cry and wake up call for a new and an old generation and a reminder the bad old days may not be so old after all.

But as the parents have toured the country almost non-stop since the heart-wrenching day a year and a half ago, there is one thing they have not been able to do: Grieve.

“There is no time to grieve,” said Tracy Martin, when asked the question about personally coping with his son’s death and having any help to do so. The mom and dad were part of a panel Aug. 2 during the annual convention of the National Association of Black Journalists. The question came from The Final Call as the floor was opened for questions from convention participants.

The support from people around the country helps and dealing with the loss is ongoing, Mr. Martin added.

But, he continued, there is so much work to be done helping others who have lost children to violence and who are voiceless.

For Sybrina Fulton an abiding religious faith and the support of her pastor provides some help coping, but she has received no counseling. She too simply keeps going, retelling the story of her son’s life and his death at the hands of self-appointed neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman in Sanford, Fla. Last month a six-person jury acquitted Mr. Zimmerman of second-degree murder but federal authorities are still probing for possible civil rights violations.

Retired CBS newsman Randall Pinkston conducted the afternoon session in the main conference ballroom following a press conference earlier that day.

Attorneys Daryl Parks and Natalie Jackson, left, join Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton at NABJ convention session about the death of their son Trayvon Martin. Retired CBS newsman Randall Pinkston moderated the session. Photos: Richard B. Muhammad
The Martin family expects to be at a major Aug. 24 gathering in Washington, D.C., to mark the 50th anniversary of the historic 1963 March on Washington for jobs and justice by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Trayvon’s passing and his parents’ fight to define his legacy, oppose Stand Your Ground laws across the country and help heal others suffering from tragic, violent losses will be part of the march agenda.

Their push is for a Trayvon Martin amendment to the Florida law which allows for use of deadly force if threatened, even if an exit is possible. The killer of the Miami teen, slain returning from a walk to the store while visiting his father, did not invoke the controversial law. It was, however, included in jury instructions and appears to have contributed to the acquittal. The Trayvon amendment would prohibit initiating a conflict and then claiming Stand Your Ground as a defense. Family attorneys, who accompanied the parents and older son Jahvaris at the convention, say some state legislators in Florida want to talk about amending the law.

The family has continued to display incredible dignity in the midst of tragedy. While the pain comes through despite their stoic manner, there is no whining or claiming of victimhood.

They have declined to criticize prosecutors who were essentially forced to charge Mr. Zimmerman after huge public outcry.

But attorney Natalie Jackson, who works for the law firm that represents the family, said while race was excluded from an early part of the case, it should have been placed front and center by prosecutors. She also noted lawyers try cases differently.

However, Atty. Jackson added, the state’s case has nothing to do with the federal investigation or decision whether or not to prosecute Mr. Zimmerman. The federal probe is independent and nothing tied to the Florida prosecution determines how the Justice Dept. can proceed, she explained.

While that process goes forward, the Martins move forward, slowly, in pain but unbowed. The state of Florida’s verdict, they vow, will not determine Trayvon’s legacy—their strength and commitment, however, just might.