Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Seattle University's student newspaper since 1933

The Spectator

Sybrina Fulton on Love, Respect and Nonviolence

Jessie Koon • the spectator

“I don’t want you to look at this like a lecture or some type of seminar, because I’m not really that person,” said Sybrina Fulton to a full crowd in Pigott Auditorium on Monday. “I’m a mom. I just want you to look at me as an average mom.”

A sense of catharsis spread over campus this week when Fulton—better known, in her own words, as “Trayvon Martin’s mom”—gave an emotional speech to hundreds of students, faculty and community members.

Since losing her youngest son to an act of gun violence nearly four years ago, Fulton has traveled around and outside of the U.S. to share her story and to urge her audiences to take real action against unnecessary violence. Monday marked her first visit
to Seattle.

“Are you going to wait until it happens to you in order to get involved?,” she said. “That was
my mistake.”

Fulton’s talk was an event organized by Moral Mondays, a Seattle University #BlackLivesMatter initiative that began last year in response to the Michael Brown tragedy in Ferguson, MO. Moral Mondays events are held each Monday throughout the school year, with a few exceptions for holidays and finals. The events vary from spiritual to political to artistic, but share the common goal of making Seattle U a safe place to discuss race relations in America.

Jessie Koon • the spectator
Jessie Koon • the spectator

Left to right: Associate Vice President of Student Development Alvin Sturdivant, Vice President of Student Development Michele C. Murray, Sybrina Fulton, and Tyrone Brown.

Tyrone Brown, administrative coordinator of Counseling and Psychological Services and a Seattle U alumnus, brought the idea for Moral Mondays to campus and has overseen the program since its takeoff. When he first spoke to President Fr. Stephen Sundborg, S.J. about his plans for the initiative, he noted Fulton as a speaker he’d be interested in reaching out to.

“When I left that meeting I thought oh, I actually need to see if I could make that happen,” Brown said.

Partnering with off-campus sponsors and on-campus departments such as the Student Government of Seattle University and Campus Ministry eventually made the event a reality.

“One of the amazing things about [Brown] is that even though he kind of got the ball rolling on it, he’s never tried to own Moral Mondays,” said Campus Minister James McCarty. “He’s been very collaborative, and he’s invited anyone who wants to get involved to get involved.”

Fulton spoke twice on Monday; first at an afternoon talk aimed specifically at the Seattle U community, and again in the evening for an event more open to the public.

Though she didn’t go into specifics about the trial, she was candid about the experience of losing a child, which she described as, “a different type of pain” than any she’d ever dealt with. She explained that sharing the story of the tragedy is a part of her healing process.

“I don’t think [public speaking] is about her reliving the trauma,” Brown said. “But it’s trying to contextualize it so that we get a different narrative about Trayvon, and we learn about the larger issues that she’s trying to advocate for so that other families don’t have to deal with this trauma.”

While it’s one thing to hear about a shooting on television or read about it in the paper, the impact is entirely different when the words come from the victim’s loved ones. McCarty and Brown both emphasized the importance of hearing Trayvon’s story from his mother’s perspective.

“Oftentimes, justice work becomes very abstract when you’re talking about statistics and general trajectories of society,” McCarty said. “And I think it’s always helpful to hear stories and to build relationships.”

A theme Fulton came back to multiple times in her talk was the importance of community—that the biggest and most important changes individuals can make happen right where they live. Though losing her son made her recognize more than ever the faults of her hometown, Miami, she said she refuses to leave.

“There are flaws everywhere,” Fulton said. “But I’m going to be part of the solution, and I’m going to make changes in my own community.”

Brown said that it was not a coincidence that Fulton was scheduled to visit so early in the school year. He hopes that the impact of her talk will reverberate in the coming months as students and faculty continue to consider Fulton’s points.

Moral Mondays will continue on Oct. 12, with an event celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day; the time and location are pending.

“[Moral Mondays] is an important part of our campus culture now,” McCarty said. “I think one of the great things about being a college student is that you’re given a relatively safe space to explore questions of social justice, but also ways in which you’re going to be able to be an engaged citizen going forward.”

Jenna may be reached at [email protected]

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