Two Parents, One Dead Son, and a National Movement

Before 2012, few in America had heard of Sybrina Fulton or Tracy Martin. They were like millions of other hard-working men and women across our country whose lives revolve around jobs, family, friends, church, and community.

Today, Sybrina and Tracy are leaders of a national movement. They speak to huge audiences and are regularly interviewed by journalists. They have met with presidential candidate Hillary Clinton—Sybrina herself spoke at the Democratic National Convention—and they have conferred with other politicians and celebrities to advance their cause. In four short years, they have become among the most recognizable voices challenging a broken criminal justice system and the plague of violence claiming so many innocent black lives on our nation’s streets.

The story of how two ordinary people came to found and lead a non-violent social movement to reduce senseless gun violence is the subject of their new and deeply affecting book, Rest in Power: The Enduring Life of Trayvon Martin.

The story, of course, revolves around the events of February 26, 2012, when their son, Trayvon Martin, was shot and killed as he walked one evening in a suburban Orlando neighborhood after buying a soft drink and bag of Skittles at a nearby 7-Eleven.

If you think you know the full Trayvon Martin case—as we thought we did before we read this book—you are mistaken. Hearing the parents tell their story, in their own voices, allows for a much fuller appreciation of the circumstances of Trayvon’s death, the failures of the criminal justice system in investigating and prosecuting the case against George Zimmerman (the man who shot Trayvon—rarely named in this book and usually referred to simply as “the killer”), and the human costs of such tragedies.

The story is told by both parents, alternating from one to the other as they provide personal perspectives on the same series of events—their own backgrounds, their raising of Trayvon (they continued to share parenting responsibilities after they were divorced), the night he was killed, the investigation and trial, and the birth of a movement. That each is so honest and so earnest—passionate but never melodramatic—in recounting a terrible personal tragedy lends power and poignancy to what is already a fascinating narrative. Equally impressive is the grace and transcendence of their voices. Although they pull no punches about the role of race in this case, they are evangelists for non-violence and for moving above and beyond the racial divide to confront gun violence as a collective national challenge that affects us all.

Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin did not choose their cause. It chose them. How remarkable it is that two people thrust into the spotlight with no preparation or desire for it could go on to embrace a new, unexpected, and highly visible role with such equanimity and magnanimity. Today, as people across America are searching for ways to get involved and take action on issues from criminal justice to immigration to climate change to women’s rights, this mom and dad from Florida are as good role models as one can hope to find. Please read their book.

— Brad and Lissa