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Sybrina Fulton launches Empowered to Know My Rights

#TRAYVONMARTINLIVES

Ashley Montgomery | 5/1/2014, 9 a.m.

Nearly two years after the killing of her son, Trayvon Martin, Sybrina Fulton has since dedicated her life to traveling the nation and speaking on behalf of the “voiceless.”

Last Thursday, Fulton and the Trayvon Martin Foundation visited North Miami Senior High School students as part of an effort to educate and empower South Florida’s young people about their civic rights and responsibilities.

Commander Tim Belcher of the North Miami Police Department spoke to students, faculty and staff about the importance of learning about their civil rights and making good life decisions that would produce positive outcomes. He delivered a heart-felt speech about his past in which he overcame negative influences in order to achieve the success he has today.

“You will run into some distractions. I can guarantee that,” Belcher said. “If you set goals for yourself and ask for those things, they will come true.

Things will work out if you have patience and use the right resources that are provided for you. Education is something that you must take advantage of.”

When asked to show by raising their hands how many students had been affected directly by gun violence, nearly every hand went up in the auditorium.

The Empowered to Know My Rights mentoring program is powered by the Trayvon Martin Foundation and Youth of America Community Association (YACA). YACA is a South-Florida-based mentoring group.

Foundation Executive Director Kim McCray said the focus for the two organizations is to create a movement of personal empowerment and community engagement with students before the end of the school year.

“We want our students to know that they are leaders now to bring positive change in their communities,” McCray, the foundation’s executive director said. “As they learn their rights as citizens, they can in turn educate their parents, peers and widen their sphere of influence.”

A MOTHER'S LOVE

Before Fulton spoke, a short film was played to illustrate the dangers and impact of gun violence on the community.

The United States is experiencing soaring levels of gun violence, which claims over 30,000 lives annually, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention. In addition to those who are killed or injured, there are countless others whose lives are forever changed by deaths and injuries to their loved ones.

“There’s no justification for what happened to Trayvon,” Fulton said. “The lawmakers should be uncomfortable that a 17-year-old was walking home from the store on the telephone, not paying attention and someone followed, chased and pursued him — there’s no justification for why he was shot and killed.”

Fulton wants to make sure that new laws provide justice for all — not just for some. She also stressed the importance of registering to vote.

The shooting death of her son Martin on February 26, 2012 by George Zimmerman, a self-proclaimed neighborhood watchman, sparked national outrage among civil rights leaders after he gunned down the unarmed 17-year-old Black student who was visiting his relatives in Sanford, FL .

Zimmerman was acquitted of second-degree murder charges last year after claiming the shooting was in self-defense.

The highly-publicized case raised questions and stirred national debate over racial profiling, police practices and gun control laws around the nation.

“This was not my profession. However, because of the death of my son, I feel it necessary to speak for the voiceless; to speak for those who can not speak for themselves because of senseless gun violence,” Fulton said.

Although unfair, Fulton explained how society judges on one’s appearance. The foundation is dedicated to increasing public awareness of all forms of racial ethnic and gender profiling. The group also seeks to educate youths on conflict resolution techniques and hopes to reduce the number of fatal confrontations similar to her son's.

The Trayvon Martin Foundation was established by Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin in March 2012 as a not-for-profit organization.

The purpose of the foundation is to create awareness of how violent crime impacts the families of murder victims. The group also provides support and advocacy for those families in response to the murder of Martin.