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Trayvon Martin's mom to Michael Brown's: 'Neither of their lives shall be in vain'

By Emma Lacey-Bordeaux, CNN
updated 8:36 PM EDT, Tue August 19, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • "I wish I had a word of automatic comfort, but I don't," she writes
  • Fulton writes the Browns will "hear character assassinations about Michael"
  • She ends the letter with a fiery call to action

(CNN) -- In the days since Michael Brown was shot and killed, protests have filled the streets in Ferguson.

But beyond the signs, marchers and tear gas, there's the pain and grief of a family. It's a pain Sybrina Fulton knows all too well.

"I wish I had a word of automatic comfort, but I don't," she writes in an open letter to Brown's parents.

Fulton has been there. She, too, lost a son in a shooting death that also triggered protests and outrage.

Her son was Trayvon Martin.

"I hate that you and your family must join this exclusive yet growing group of parents and relatives who have lost loved ones to senseless gun violence," she writes in the letter published in Time magazine. "But Michael is much more than a police/gun violence case; Michael is your son."

Two and a half years ago on February 27, 2012, Fulton's son was shot and killed in Florida by George Zimmerman, a volunteer neighborhood watch captain. The case quickly drew national attention as weeks went by without formal charges.

Sybrina Fulton knows the pain of losing a son.
Sybrina Fulton knows the pain of losing a son.

President Barack Obama publicly addressed the case, as he has in the Brown shooting.

And as is the case with the Brown shooting, protests in support of Trayvon and his family spread nationwide.

Zimmerman was charged on April 11, 2012. Then in July of 2013, he was found not guilty of second degree murder.

In the Brown shooting, a grand jury may begin to hear testimony as early as Wednesday and decide on whether to return an indictment against the police officer who killed him, Darren Wilson.

Claims of character assassination

Meanwhile, key questions in the case remain unanswered and a debate over what we do know plays out in public.

Police have released video of Brown taking part in an alleged convenience store robbery, and a purported friend of the Wilson called into a local radio station claiming that Brown attacked the officer and disobeyed an order to freeze. It's an account that a source with detailed knowledge of the investigation later told CNN matches what Wilson himself has told investigators.

However, both the video and the account of events contrast sharply with what witnesses and family members have said about the incident and Brown's character.

Perhaps in reference to this public debate, Fulton writes the Browns will "hear character assassinations about Michael which I am certain you already have."

She adds, "This will incense and insult you. All of this will happen before and continue long after you have had the chance to lay your son to rest."

"Honor your son and his life, not the circumstances of his alleged transgression," Fulton writes. "I have always said that Trayvon was not perfect. But no one will ever convince me that my son deserved to be stalked and murdered. No one can convince you that Michael deserved to be executed."

Fulton pledges that "neither of their lives shall be in vain" and ends her letter with a fiery call to action. "If they refuse to hear us, we will make them feel us."

"Some will mistake that last statement as being negatively provocative. But feeling us means feeling our pain; imagining our plight as parents of slain children. We will no longer be ignored."

Magazine: The Aftermath in Ferguson

Complete coverage of what's happening in Ferguson

Part of complete coverage on
Follow our complete coverage of the protests and aftermath of the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.
updated 9:23 AM EST, Wed November 26, 2014
The sparks of outrage that started in Ferguson, Missouri, have ignited a firestorm of protests across the country.
updated 10:25 AM EST, Wed November 26, 2014
Did Officer Wilson shoot Michael Brown dead as he staggered to the ground, hobbled by gunshot wounds? Or, did the 18-year-old aggressively charge at Wilson?
updated 11:15 AM EST, Wed November 26, 2014
The Jenkinses knew their restaurant was not so badly damaged. They'd seen video of protesters locking arms in front of the place to protect it from vandals.
updated 11:12 AM EST, Wed November 26, 2014
Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson said that he's not tormented by that fateful encounter in suburban St. Louis last summer.
updated 8:06 AM EST, Wed November 26, 2014
President Barack Obama said he has "no sympathy at all for destroying your own communities."
updated 10:15 AM EST, Tue November 25, 2014
Some people here just wanted the drama to end. Others say it can never end, not as long as a white cop can shoot an unarmed black teenager without consequences.
updated 8:40 AM EST, Wed November 26, 2014
Michael Brown's stepfather consoled the dead teen's distraught mother and then turned to the crowd of demonstrators, saying, "Burn this mother f---er down."
News about the grand jury's decision not to indict Wilson spread quickly nationwide, spurring spontaneous rallies. See a collection of reactions from across the country.
updated 12:24 PM EST, Tue November 25, 2014
Buildings burned. Shops looted. Cars destroyed.
If you are in Ferguson or have witnessed protests where you live, share your story with CNN. Personal essays and video commentary are also welcome.
updated 7:44 AM EST, Wed November 26, 2014
Violent protests broke out after the grand jury announcement. Protesters looted stores as police tried to disperse the crowd with tear gas.
updated 6:45 PM EST, Tue November 25, 2014
Transcripts of testimony that jurors heard considering Michael Brown's death have been released to the public.
updated 4:15 PM EST, Tue November 25, 2014
Photos of Officer Wilson taken after his altercation with Michael Brown have been released.
updated 3:34 PM EST, Tue November 25, 2014
During the months-long protests in Ferguson last summer, police said demonstrators could protest all they want -- as long as they stayed home after dark.
updated 7:34 AM EST, Tue November 25, 2014
His mother ran down the street, tears streaming down her face. His father said he was "devastated."
updated 7:13 AM EST, Tue November 25, 2014
All eyes and ears were on St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch when he announced there would be no indictment.
updated 8:50 AM EST, Tue November 25, 2014
Ferguson police Officer Darren Wilson will either continue to be a free man or will endure one of the most highly publicized criminal trials since Trayvon Martin's killer faced a jury.
updated 7:01 PM EDT, Wed August 20, 2014
As tensions in Ferguson, Missouri, have bubbled, one official after another has taken the lead, grappling to figure out how to stop it from coming to a boil.
updated 10:34 AM EDT, Fri August 22, 2014
See images of the protests in Ferguson, Missouri.
updated 7:56 AM EDT, Wed August 13, 2014
"He was funny, silly. He would make you laugh. He'd bring people back together," his father, Michael Brown Sr., told reporters.
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