Trayvon Martin, the Florida teen killed in 2012 by a vigilante and whose memory sparked a youth-led racial justice movement, once dreamed of becoming a pilot.
Florida Memorial University, a historically black college in Miami Gardens, Florida, where Sybrina Fulton, Trayvon's mother, received her bachelor's in English, intends to make that deferred dream a reality. The university's aviation school will posthumously confer Trayvon with a pilot's degree during its commencement exercises on May 13, the college's president announced.
"Of special significance is awarding posthumously the Bachelor of Science Degree in Aviation to Trayvon Martin," Dr. Roslyn Clark Artis, president of Florida Memorial University, said in a press release posted to Facebook on Wednesday. "Sybrina, our alum, epitomizes strength and dignity as she uplifts other victims of violence while effecting change for a more equal and just society."
Fulton was excited about the announcement. "It's now 20 years [after my own graduation] and now my son #TrayvonMartin will receive his Bachelors in Aviation, something he loved," Fulton wrote in a note of thanks to the university on Wednesday.
George Zimmerman, the self-appointed neighborhood watchman acquitted of murder in Martin's death in 2013, had maligned the teen's character in TV interviews. Some media outlets also participated in demonizing Travyon — they found unflattering social media posts, reported on his school suspension and riffed on racial stereotypes that black men and boys contend with, whether alive or dead.
Trayvon loved airplanes, his mother has said. He enjoyed horseback riding. The 17-year-old high school senior was preparing to apply to college. And, like many other teen boys, he also liked getting the latest sneakers and flirting with girls on the phone.
The university's decision to award Trayvon the aviation degree is perhaps the best reminder of what was actually lost in his tragic death — Trayvon's ability to self-determine his future and realize his dreams.