Sabrina Fulton, the mother of Trayvon Martin, was one of the most recognizable guests last Friday, along with Constance Malcolm, Valerie Bell and Jackie Rowe-Adams, all of whom have a similar story. Their sons were killed by gun violence, with the events continuing to weigh heavily on their hearts.
The mothers were honored with city proclamations from New York City and Newark, N.J., as part of a recent Black History Month celebration that was spearheaded by the Service Employees International Union 1199 (1199SEIU) Benefit Fund Staff Association and the African-American Caucus of SEIU.
The night’s celebration took place in 1199SEIU’s Times Square auditorium, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his last speech in New York in March 1968, a month before he was assassinated. Under the theme “Social Injustice and Gun Violence on Black and Brown Children in Urban Communities,” the event hosted the mothers of Trayvon Martin, Ramarley Graham, Sean Bell and Anthony and Tyrone Bouldin, respectively, as well as advocates and elected leaders, to demand an end to gun violence and police brutality against youths of color.
“We started off with five mothers, and now we have 50-plus mothers and fathers that meet every first Monday of the month,” exclaimed Rowe-Adams, founder of Harlem Mothers SAVE (Stop Another Violent End), an anti-violence group she started in 2006 to help parents of murdered children after her two sons were killed. Anthony Bouldin, 17, was shot in Harlem in 1982 and Tyrone Bouldin, 28, was murdered in Baltimore.
“Let’s take our kids! Let’s take back our community! Enough is enough!” she continued, followed by a standing ovation from the packed room.
Fulton expressed her gratitude to New Yorkers, “who were the first to show her family support after Trayvon was killed.”
“We were here for the Rev. Al Sharpton’s show, and we didn’t even know what ‘Million Hoodies’ was,” said Fulton. “We didn’t know how many people were in support of me and family. Thank you, New York.”
The night’s program also featured special appearances from actor and activist Harry Belafonte and Newark Councilman Ras Baraka, son of renowned poets Amina and Amiri Baraka. Three of the “Central Park Five,” Yusef Salaam, Kevin Richardson and Raymond Santana, were also honored with proclamations.
Baraka accepted a recognition award for his mother from Bronx Councilman Andy King, who said he created the award after the city denied his request to award her with a proclamation due to past controversies surrounding her husband, Amiri Baraka, had regarding the law.
“This is another thing we had to stand up against,” said King. “This mother went through a lot of challenges, and it’s almost to say that because Malcolm X might have been an enemy to some Americans that we don’t recognize Betty Shabazz. Since I was given that push-back, I said I have to find a way to make something happen. So I came up with a recognition award.”