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Activist shares heartache with bereaved mothers

Mutual support: Sybrina Fulton, left, and Ieshea Francis (Photograph by Fiona McWhirter)

Mothers grieving the death of a child heard their heartbreak is shared all over the world, and “there is always hope”.

Sybrina Fulton, whose son Trayvon Martin’s fatal shooting prompted the international Black Lives Matter movement, was in Bermuda to speak at a three-day event with those affected by the loss of a loved one.

The gathering was organised by the family of 20-year-old Bermudian Jahcari Francis, who was shot dead last July, after they attended a Circle of Mothers event and saw for themselves how transformative the sessions can be.

Ms Fulton, from Miami, shared stories with local women on Friday night before giving a presentation on Saturday.

She told The Royal Gazette: “I listened and what I said was, ‘it’s the same pain, it does not matter what country you’re from’.

“It does not matter what level of healing you’re at, it does not matter the grieving process, the pain is still the same pain, the heartbreak is still the same heartbreak.

“That’s what I realised from travelling and that’s what is the same thing that I hear the mothers saying here.”

She continued: “The most important thing is to know that other mothers are in a room and they can say, I know how you feel.

“It’s important because it feels like you’re not alone. A lot of times we’re going through things and we think it’s just us, nobody else is feeling this way, nobody else knows what my emotions are.

“Then when you come in a room such as this, you realise there are other people who feel the same way you do, who hurt the same way you do, who have to carry the burden of losing a child the same way you do.”

Ms Fulton’s son, a 17-year-old high school student, was killed on February 26, 2012 in Sanford, Florida, as he ran an errand for his father, when neighbourhood watch member George Zimmerman defied instructions from a 911 dispatcher and confronted him, resulting in a fight.

Zimmerman was acquitted of second degree murder, having claimed self-defence based on a state law, sparking protests across the US focusing on issues including race, power and gun control.

Ms Fulton has dedicated her life to bringing about social change and the idea of staging Circle of Mothers events came to her in a dream.

She explained: “This is the support group for mothers who have lost children or a child to senseless gun violence.

“It’s about healing, it’s about empowering, it’s about educating the mothers, it’s about trying to restore the mothers and essentially teach them about what moving to their next chapter is.

“That is my target group because I’m a part of that group, however, I still have mothers who have lost a child through an illness, through a car accident, through a stabbing or any type of issue ... it’s the same pain, it’s the same hurt.”

Mr Francis’s family secured Ms Fulton as a guest speaker through contact with the Trayvon Martin Foundation and later set up a fund in their own son’s memory, called The Cari Foundation.

Ms Fulton said: “These sessions are not a cure-all but it’s a start to help them heal.

“I’m going back home but for the mothers that are here, they will be able to communicate and talk to other mothers that are here.

“I’m just here to help them establish, to help them start a chapter and initiate things.

“I’m going back to my community and here, they should move forward with the next steps in helping other mothers.”

She added: “There is always hope, there was hope for me when I didn’t realise there was hope.

“A lot of times we see what’s right in front of us and we don’t see past the storm, but the moms have to know, even though you might be going through a storm, that a brighter day is coming.”

Ieshea Francis, Mr Francis’s mother, described it as “an honour and a pleasure” to welcome Ms Fulton and her team to the weekend’s events.

The 39-year-old said it was important to let mothers know: “They’re not by themselves, they’re not alone, they do have support.”

She added: “We have lost many things in our life journey that have caused us pain and we haven’t released it.”

The Cari Foundation is looking for opportunities to partner with other island organisations and businesses to develop its work.

Anyone seeking more information can e-mail ieshea78@gmail.com