Hefty, genuine, and poignant. Essential and coat-pulling.
No-nonsense eloquent. Spirit-provoking.
These phrases describe some qualities of the comments Trayvon Martin's parents made at Dillard University on April 24, 2017. They spoke in Georges Auditorium to an audience of approximately 350 people --- high school students, a smaller number of college students, and an odd number of folks over the age of 30. Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin spoke from the depths of something that must pulsate within people who have lost a loved one as a result of racially motivated violence. Faith is what we usually call the emotional space or place from which they spoke. African Americans have no monopoly on faith, but the historical experiences of black folks in the United States have endowed them with the ability to absorb and deploy faith with amazing grace. Fulton and Martin are exemplars of that fact.
As poised as scholars who know their subject matter intimately, they taught us a great deal about the uniqueness of individual grief. Although I read only one chapter of their book
Rest in Power: The Enduring Life of Trayvon Martin (New York: Spiegel & Grau, 2017)
before they began to speak, I could sense a strong correlation between the printed words and the spoken ones. This is a good omen, a sign that Fulton and Martin have created a powerful tool for continuing the legacy of their son. They have blended love, grief, and pain-forged equanimity into a book of alternating witnessing of the mother and the father.
Tracy, Chapter 12:
If we continued saying his name, would his name continue to stand for something?
Something deeper than his death. Something bigger than his unfinished life. Something that could last longer than this trial. Something that would turn his passing into power. (302)
Sybrina, Chapter 13
All I wanted was to be a mother , to work at my job and raise my kids and live a normal life.
Then my son was killed and that world went with him and God led me to another place, another
world, and another life. I became a mother on a mission. A mission to bring awareness and change. So that he killing of Trayvon Martin would stand for something, so that the killing will someday stop and the healing will begin. So that our children, and all children, can live in peace.
Rest in power, my son. (331)
The mother's answer to the father's question is definitive, and the magnanimous control of grief is transformed into a weapon. Trayvon's parents teach us what must be done if we are to ever rest in power.
Jerry W. Ward, Jr. April 25, 2017