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10 years after Trayvon Martin’s death, mothers share lessons on perseverance

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Ten years ago this week, Sybrina Fulton’s 17-year-old son Trayvon Martin, was shot and killed on the way home from the store after buying a bag of Skittles.

His death ignited the Black Lives Matter movement, and in the years since, Fulton has also become a prominent activist. She leads the group “Mothers of the Movement," which is made up of Black women who have lost their children to police and gun violence.

Sybrina Fulton attends the Trayvon Martin: Rest In Power screening on May 16, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)
Sybrina Fulton attends the Trayvon Martin: Rest In Power screening on May 16, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

This year, Fulton wrote TRAYVON: TEN YEARS LATER to provide insight into the work done to protect her son’s legacy, and how she turns pain into purpose.

She has also become somewhat of an icon to other Black mothers. In the years since her son's death, Fulton has traveled all over the world and spoken to other parents who have lost their children.

In 2015, she held an event at Seattle University. That's how she met mothers Ayanna Brown and Shalisa Hayes.

Hayes' 17-year-old son, Billy Ray, was shot and killed in 2011 at a party in Tacoma, Washington.

Shalisa Hayes holds a photo of her son, Billy Ray Shirley. (Courtesy Shalisa Hayes)
Shalisa Hayes holds a photo of her son, Billy Ray Shirley. (Courtesy Shalisa Hayes)

In 2010, Brown’s 12-year-old son, Alajawan, was stepping off of a city bus in Skyway, Washington when he was shot and killed. He was coming home from Walmart after buying a pair of football cleats.

Both women felt a yearning to talk to another Black mother who knows exactly what they're going through. They've also been inspired by Fulton to turn their pain into purpose. Brown works full-time running her son's foundation, and Hayes recently opened a community center in her son's memory.

Alajawan Brown. (Courtesy Ayanna Brown)
Alajawan Brown. (Courtesy Ayanna Brown)

Here & Now's Tonya Mosley gathered the three mothers together again to talk about grief and perseverance in the face of such loss. Click the audio link above for the full story.

This segment aired on February 24, 2022.

Tonya Mosley Twitter Correspondent, Here & Now
Tonya Mosley was the LA-based co-host of Here & Now.

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Samantha Raphelson Associate Producer, Here & Now
Samantha Raphelson is an associate producer for Here & Now, based at NPR in Washington, D.C.

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