Family of Trayvon Martin, Feb. 9, 2014 in Davie, FL. From left: Tracy Martin, Sybrina Fulton and Jahvaris Fulton. (Sheryl Huggins Salomon)
It’s clear that potential was snuffed out when George Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin, but the sky may have been the limit, literally, for the Florida teen, according to his father. “I believe he was becoming a great individual. Of course, he hadn’t figured out exactly what it was he wanted to do. He knew he wanted to be in the aviation field, he had a great interest in that,” said Tracy Martin, in an exclusive interview with NewsOne during the second annual remembrance gala in his son’s name, Sunday evening in Davie, Fla. If he had lived, Trayvon would have been 19 years old on Feb. 5. The second anniversary of his death, at age 17 in Sanford, Fla., will be on Feb. 26.
In fact, in the summer of 2009, then-14-year-old Trayvon attended a 7-week program called “Experience Aviation” in Opa-Locka, Fla., to learn about flying; but whatever direction he ended up taking, “If he was going off to college, becoming a pilot – whatever it was, be it going into the military – whatever it was, I just wanted the best for him,” said Tracy Martin.
Developing the potential in other young people is one of the goals of the Trayvon Martin Foundation, for which Sunday night’s gala honoring Jamie Foxx, Michael Baisden and Michael Eric Dyson, and hosted by Laz Alonso, raised funds. “We’re trying to start our mentoring program, we’re trying to start our scholarship programs,” said Martin. “Of course, we’re always advocating against senseless crime. We’re trying to help people understand the Stand Your Ground laws. We really want to try to change that law [in Florida], because it’s a bad law.”
A growing number of states have enacted the laws, which generally allow people to use deadly force in self-defense without the duty to retreat from or evade a perceived threat. Such defenses have have factored in the cases of the slayings of black teenagers Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis. A recent Tampa Bay Times study found that defendants using Stand Your Ground were more likely to prevail if the victim is black.
Tracy Martin pointed to this year’s mid-term elections as an opportunity to vote in lawmakers who will amend or repeal the laws. He and his ex-wife, Sybrina Fulton, have pushed to modify Florida law with a “Trayvon Martin Act” that would prevent the person who is the initial aggressor in a confrontation from claiming they were acting in self-defense under Stand Your Ground.
“The only way we can make a change is if we get out and vote in records numbers,” said Martin. “President Obama is not going to be on the ballot. So…what’s the inspiration to get out and vote? Hopefully, senseless crimes such as [the one that happened to] Trayvon Martin, the Kendrick Johnsons, the Oscar Grants — and the Jordan Davises, with people trying to use Stand your Ground Laws — hopefully that motivates people to get out to the polls and vote.” (Editor’s note: The cases of Kendrick Johnson and Oscar Grant did not involve Stand Your Ground defenses.)
Hear what else Tracy Martin said about his son, the foundation’s work and the upcoming elections, in the clip below.