In the aftermath of the controversial shooting death of Trayvon Martin, the 17-year-old has been praised and vilified alike. Advocates of the teen—killed Feb. 26, 2012, by a neighborhood watchman who viewed him as a suspicious—say that George Zimmerman had no right to take the life of a youth armed only with iced tea and Skittles. But Zimmerman and his defenders have portrayed the teen as violent and aggressive. Zimmerman says that he only shot Trayvon (after following him around a gated community in Sanford, Fla., and having a confrontation with him) because he feared the teen would kill him. In the months following Trayvon’s death, his family and friends have tried to paint a three-dimensional portrait of the slain youth. Who was the real Trayvon Martin? Facts about his interests, goals and skills shed light on his true character.
A Peaceful Person
Much has been made about Trayvon’s suspensions from school in the months leading up to his death. His school disciplined him for chronic lateness, tagging graffiti on campus and carrying a bag with trace amounts of marijuana inside. Despite these infractions, Trayvon’s family and friends have consistently stated that he was a peaceful person. Kindhearted, even-tempered and thoughtful are the adjectives the New York Times reported that the late teen’s loved ones used to describe him. Trayvon’s mother, Sybrina Fulton, told New York Times columnist Charles Blow that Trayvon hadn’t had a physical confrontation with anyone since his preschool years. Moreover, Trayvon’s older brother Jahvaris Fulton—the person Trayvon fought with as 4-year-old—described his departed sibling to CNN as nonviolent.
George Zimmerman has said that he killed Trayvon in self-defense because he feared the teen would kill him. But Zimmerman reportedly outweighed the youth by 100 pounds. Although Trayvon Martin stood just under 6 feet 3 inches tall, he only weighed 140 pounds, according to the New York Times. His lankiness earned him the nickname “Slimm,” which he described himself as on the social networking site Twitter.
Trayvon was by all accounts a caretaker. He spoon-fed his quadriplegic uncle, Ronald Fulton, when no nurse was on hand to do so. He also babysat his 3- and 7-year-old girl cousins, nicknamed the “bunnies.” He often baked cookies for them, his family told the Times. The night Trayvon was murdered his father, Tracy Martin, was having dinner with fiancée Brandy Green. Trayvon was in Green’s home with her 14-year-old son, Chad. Before heading to the store, Trayvon asked the boy if he wanted anything. The answer? Skittles. The candy Trayvon died with was for someone else.
Trayvon’s family members have been praised for keeping their composure while grieving a very public loss. They counter many of the vicious stereotypes some have tried to impose on their slain loved one. Trayvon’s mother, Sybrina Fulton, is an employee for Miami-Dade County’s housing agency. His father, Tracy Martin, is a truck driver. Fulton and Martin are now divorced. His brother, Jahvaris Fulton, 21, is a student at Florida International University. The lives Trayvon’s family members have led give every indication that the teenager would likewise attend college and pursue a career rather than carry on as the thug he’s been smeared as being by certain right-wing organizations and news outlets.
Intelligent and College-Bound
A white supremacist by the name of Klanklannon hacked into Travyon’s Gmail and social networking site accounts to expose him as a “thug” to the public. But this hacker’s mission backfired when the gossip website Gawker reported that his email was filled with messages about the late teen’s interest in college and aeronautics. “A screenshot of Trayvon’s Gmail inbox our source provided us is heartbreaking,” Gawker writer Adrian Chen wrote. “Martin apparently used his Gmail account for his college search, and it’s filled with emails about upcoming SAT tests and scholarship applications. (‘Trayvon, now is the best time to take the SATs!’) One email included the results of a career aptitude test, our source said. It ‘talked about his interest in aeronautics and stuff.’” Both Trayvon’s mother and brother have remarked that he’d taken honors classes.
Hobbies and Interests
Like many teens, Trayvon had a series of hobbies and interests. He counted the edgy television show “South Park,” the music of Bob Marley and the athleticism of LeBron James among his favorites. He liked to play sports and typical teenage jaunts to the mall. He especially liked his mother’s everyman dish of hamburgers and French fries. Count brownies with lots of nuts as his guilty pleasure, his grandmother told the New York Times. He earned money by painting houses, washing cars and working Pee Wee football league games.