Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old, was fatally shot by a neighbor on February 26th, 2012, in Sanford, Florida. Trayvon was staying with his father and his father’s fiancée in their gated community.
He did what millions of people do every day. He donned his hoodie and walked to a convenience store to buy snacks. His choice of refreshments were an Arizona Iced Tea and Skittles.
This nightmare all started when a man spotted Trayvon in the neighborhood. He called the police and reported Trayvon as a suspicious person. Against the instruction of the police, the man followed Trayvon. Moments after the call, he shot and killed Trayvon. The state charged him with second-degree murder, but he claimed self-defense, introducing people all across America to Florida’s potentially fraught stand-your-ground law.
A jury acquitted Travyon’s killer. His killer has continued to torment Travyon’s family, as if he has not caused them enough pain. In December 2019, Trayvon’s killer actually filed a frivolous lawsuit against the Martin family, seeking more than $100 million.
Travyon’s murder led to societal debates surrounding the politics of the “hoodie” by shining a spotlight on the perceptions and prejudices surrounding the clothing item. This one item represents “thugs” to the uninitiated, but to others the “hoodie” is indicative of what Tupac Shakur called “thug life.” Angie Thomas, author of the novel, The Hate U Give (THUG), explained that Tupac’s “thug life” is “what we see in society when unarmed black people lose their lives, the hate they’ve been given screws us all. We see it in the form of riots.”
Travyon’s murder touched the hearts of people in all walks of life. LeBron James tweeted a picture of him, Dwyane Wade and their Miami Heat teammates wearing hoodies in solidarity with Trayvon Martin’s family.
His murder sparked political action close to home as well. As of June 2020, Travyon’s mother, Sybrina Fulton, has qualified for her bid for the District 1 seat of the Miami-Dade Board of County Commissioners. Her announcement comes as the nation is reckoning with centuries of social injustices, including systemic racism and chronic mistreatment of communities of color by law enforcement, amid protests across the United States following the death of George Floyd, whose funeral she attended. With her candidacy, Fulton joins a group of incredulously resilient Black mothers, sometimes affectionately called the Mothers of the Movement, who have sought elected office after their children were shot and killed.