Sybrina Fulton, the mother of Trayvon Martin, spoke to supporters Monday at a small event space tucked away inside of a Miami Gardens shopping plaza. She announced her plans to challenge Miami Gardens Mayor Oliver Gilbert for a Miami-Dade Board of County Commissioners seat that is up for grabs in 2020 because of term limits.
With her 28-year-old son, Jahvaris Fulton, and several other family members and friends at her side, Fulton stood at the podium in front of an audience of locals and pleaded her case.
Fulton, a self-described political outsider who is from the district, said she has been mulling a run for office for about a year. She said she had never intended to get involved in politics, and that the political world left "a sour taste" in her mouth.
She added that if it was not for her son's killing, she would have been "going on vacations every year" and planning to retire.
But after being thrust into the national spotlight after her son's death, she slowly began to realize that she "needed to become a part of the change."
Fulton, who worked as a county employee for 24 years, became full-time activist, making appearances on national television, campaigning for Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential election and starting a South Florida-based organization that aims to end "senseless gun violence."
"When my son got shot down, I stood up," said Fulton. "And I'm still standing," she added, provoking several cheers of "Amen" from audience members.
In addition to tackling gun violence, Fulton said she plans on combatting growing crime in the district. She's also concerned with issues pertaining to housing access, mental illness and the elderly.
"I'm bringing fresh new energy to problems that we've seen for a long time," she said.
Martin's death sparked national outrage and was the catalyst for the Black Lives Matter movement, fueling the ongoing national conversation on systemic racism.
His killer, George Zimmerman, was acquitted on the grounds of Florida's controversial Stand Your Ground law.
News of Zimmerman's acquittal outraged many and led to protests across the United States.
Milton Felton sat in the crowd Monday, wearing an oversized red button barring Fulton's name pinned to his chest. He said her ties to the community and her work following her son's death make her a worthy candidate. The 65-year-old property inspector added that he's in favor of an outsider entering the realm of local politics.
"Fresh air is always a good change of wind," said Milton.
Lesley McSpadden, the mother of Michael Brown, a black 18-year-old who was fatally shot by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014, was defeated in April after running for a seat on her local city council. Brown's death, like Trayvon Martin's, caused large-scale civil unrest and added to the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement.
Lucy McBath, a Democrat and an African American whose 17-year-old son was fatally shot in 2012 by a white man during an argument over loud music outside a Florida convenience store, last year won a suburban Atlanta congressional seat that was previously held by a Republican. She became a gun control activist after her son was killed, and she campaigned on that issue.
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