The mother of slain Florida teenager Trayvon Martin will speak Sunday at a Baltimore mega-church about how she's coping with her son's death, according to the church's pastor.
Sybrina Fulton's appearance at Empowerment Temple Church in Northwest Baltimore will be her first in the city, and an opportunity for local parishioners to hear from "a mother who has grieved but still has strength," according to the Rev. Jamal-Harrison Bryant, who founded the 8,000-member church in 2000.
Martin, an African American 17-year-old, was shot in February in a gated community in Sanford, Fla., by Hispanic neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman. The killing has received nationwide media attention and has sparked protests and rallies in Baltimore and across the country. Martin was unarmed and wearing a hoodie at the time, and many have argued he was the victim of racial profiling.
Bryant arranged Fulton's visit himself, after having developed a relationship with Martin's family in the past three months.
Last month, Bryant stood on a Florida stage with the family after Zimmerman was charged with second-degree murder.
"Many said we were rabble-rousers and outside agitators," Bryant said at the family news conference at the time. "We are here because injustice is here. We are going to stay on this case until all of the Trayvon Martins across America have their place in the halls of justice."
Fulton's message Sunday will be especially poignant for those who have lost their own loved ones to violence, Bryant said.
"We've encouraged people within our congregation, if they know someone who has suffered a similar loss, to come on Sunday," he said.
Bryant first aligned himself with Martin's family shortly after the teen's death, when he was called down to Sanford by local pastors there, he said.
Bryant had gotten to know those pastors between 1995 and 2000, when he served under Kweisi Mfume as the national youth director for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, he said.
The pastors asked for his help because they knew he had "the history and the organization" to handle an influx of media and a bright spotlight, Bryant said.
Once in Sanford, Bryant met Benjamin Crump, the attorney for Martin's family (who will also be at Empowerment Temple on Sunday), and Crump introduced him to Fulton and Martin's father, Tracy Martin.
Bryant began ministering the grieving parents as they started traveling around the country asking for justice for their son — from Sanford to bigger cities like Miami, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C.
"The more time we spent with each other the more we felt connected, and the more they said they had faith they could trust me," Bryant said. "We developed a legitimate friendship."
Bryant said he believed there was a new civil rights movement brewing — he's part of a coalition of African American clergy called the Empowerment Movement — to secure the safety, education and economic success of the nation's African American youth.
"We are moving the black church from the sidelines to the front lines to deal with relevant civil rights issues that affect the black community," he said.
He wants Fulton to speak to his congregation because her bravery in the face of her son's death is a powerful example of how to stand up to injustice, he said.
"Sybrina is going to serve as my generation's Rosa Parks, to really stand as a lamplight for the next movement in civil rights among the hip-hop generation," Bryant said.
Empowerment Temple, at 4217 Primrose Ave., has seating for about 2,000, and Bryant said he expects a full house during the churches 9:30 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. services Sunday, when Fulton will speak.
"I think a great number from our city are going to come and stand in allegiance," he said.
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