Trayvon Martin died four years ago today. George Zimmerman — a volunteer neighborhood watchman — fatally shot the unarmed 17-year-old teen in Sanford, Florida as he walked home from a convenience store.
Martin's untimely and unnecessary death sparked outrage around the world, especially after a jury acquitted his killer of all charges. It also re-awakened the sense of perpetual danger hovering over Black communities.
So many other Black children, women, and men have been killed by police officers and vigilantes since February 26, 2012. But Martin's death changed America. Losing Trayvon made Black families hug their children and siblings closer and forced us to have difficult conversations about race and police brutality.
Sadly, those conversations are still happening.
Revelist spoke with eight millennial Black women about how Martin's death transformed them and their relationships with their sons or brothers:
Lakecia D. Owens, 28 and Camden, 4
As someone who is well aware of the racism, marginalization, and oppression that Black and Brown people face both domestically and abroad, I became paralyzed with a sense of helplessness because I knew that no matter who or what my son grows up to be, he will always be seen as a threat to his white counterparts.
I still haven't not processed these feelings because the act of processing such information is one that is tremendously painful.
Not only do I worry about my now four-year-old son, but my two Black brothers as well. Although they have gone off to a State University of New York school, they too are constantly harassed and victimized by persons in Plattsburg, New York for being Black.
All of this has sparked inconceivable thoughts about what the future may or may not hold for them, and quite frankly, I am AFRAID. I pray that one day I can see my baby walk across the stage to accept a doctorate. I pray that one day I’ll be able to see my baby brothers flourish in whatever field that they pursue at Plattsburg University. But honestly, I just don’t know what the future holds.
JeTuan, 29 and Elysha, 21
death rocked my entire world. I've lost the ability to just let Elysha
"be." I have to check myself often and force myself to stop scrutinizing
his clothing and hair. It's my hope that he will live a life of joy and prosperity because he
My fear is that he can have his light snuffed out by
someone just because he exists. His existence as a young black man
terrifies many. People's possible deadly and racists
reactions to my brother terrify me. I pray for him often.
Dei, 29 and Austin, 2
So, I have a two-and-a-half-year-old son. I
remember being pregnant with him and finding out it was a boy ... and
feeling fear and joy all at the same time. Joy because, my firstborn is a
boy, fear because I was really scared to bring my son into a world
where black boys don't get to be innocent.
I remember when the verdict came out. I was SO sad. Angry. Upset. Now that I have a little boy, I try hard not to worry. I want him to be a kid for as long as possible. I dread having to have the 'talk' with him. No not the birds and bees...the other talk. The talk about police and law enforcement. But for now I hope that the world will become a bit better with him in it.
Natalia, 29 and Zayvier, 1
Now that I am the mother of an African American male, I'm absolutely terrified for my son. Trayvon's death was unreal and no justice was served. I hate that now I have to have the uncomfortable conversation with my baby about what to do if he has a run in with police.
We have to talk about racial profiling, and how the way he dresses will affect how people treat him. Black males are born with an automatic two strikes. Just for being a black male in America.
Evette, 26 and Andrae, 31
My brother's been my best friend since I was born. He's always defended and protected me. After Trayvon Martin's death, however, I feel an overwhelming urge to protect him.
His life can be extinguished at any moment simply because of who he is. That terrifies me, especially because vigilante and state-sanctioned violence is senseless and indiscriminate.
I hope that my brother gets to live his fullest life. I hope that the cloud lingering over all Black families' heads dissipates. I hope that we do the painful work of undoing centuries of fear that encourage violence against Black men and women.
Our lives matter. And we deserve to live. My brother and my nephew and my father and my boyfriend deserve to live.
Cassandra, 30 and Shane, 6
After the death of Trayvon Martin, a lot changed regarding the hopes and fears I have for my son. At just 6-years-old instead of hoping that one day he will walk a tall proud black man making changes in his community: I hope that his height and pride won't intimidate the wrong person who might choose to end his life because of it. I hope he understands that even though I don't want him to shy away from being great; I want him to always be aware enough of his surroundings to realize that hatred has always been and will always be there and they are just waiting for an opportunity.
I hope his name will only become a "hashtag rest in peace..." after a long successful beautiful life. More importantly, I hope that no matter how I feel about the society that wants to destroy his future before it begins I hope he has the heart, strength and pride to stand tall and be great regardless and that it inspires change.
Raven, 24 and Isaiah, 2
A few days after I found out Trayvon Martin died, I
called my brother. My brother was 18 at the time. He'd just started
college at a PWI in the country. I was afraid for him. I remember
calling him and asking him if he'd heard about Trayvon Martin, and
if so, what did he think. He admitted that it scared him but he was
shocked to find out how much it scared me.
When I thought of Trayvon Martin, all I could think about was my brother's 6'5" nearly 250 pound frame, and that scared me. Knowing that Trayvon was slain for what seemed to be no offense at all truly hit home for me.
When I had a Black son, Trayvon Martin,
Tamir Rice and Jordan Davis were all I could think about. Talking to my
son about how he should act when confronted by police is scary to me. I
can't imagine myself forming the words, but I know I will have to.
When Freddie Gray died, I thought about my students who lived in his community. I thought about the students who, in only because of a few degrees of separation, could have been Freddie Gray. Honestly, Trayvon Martin's death made me afraid ... and I've been afraid ever since.
Amber, 38 and Alex, 14
My son Alex, 14, is my
world. Since Trayvon's murder, I watch Alex closely, almost hesitating
to let him out of my sight. I find myself explaining to him why he has
no choice but to look people in the eyes,
watch his tone and be careful of the impression his presence gives the
world. Not everyone loves him like I do and values his future like I do.
I find myself hugging him a little tighter and rubbing his face after
hanging with friends at a movie. He doesn't
understand why being outside alone with his skateboard is such a big
deal to me or why I insist on him wearing a ducky-covered baseball cap
with his hoodie. I need to see him walk across the stage at his college
graduation, do a corny mother/ son dance at
his wedding and get that retrospective apology about being an obnoxious
teenager from a strong, successful father I raised.
I know Trayvon's mother wishes for the same.
Updated at 2/26 at 5:05 p.m. with Amber and Raven's stories.