Trayvon Martin’s Real Story: The Teenager Who Unwittingly Contributed to the Black Lives Matter Movement

Trayvon Martin was just walking to his father’s fiancée’s house when George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, pegged him as “suspicious” and, following an altercation, shot him in the chest. Martin died on the spot. His death sparked a wave of unrest and debate over racial profiling and race relations. Six years later, a new docuseries, Rest in Power: The Trayvon Martin Story, promises to take a deeper look at the incident. It will premiere in July 2018.

It has been six years since Trayvon Martin was shot dead in Sanford, Florida. But to his family and well-wishers, it might as well have happened yesterday. Try as they might, they are unable to forget the 17-year-old boy who was killed by George Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, reportedly in self-defense.

For the African-American community in America, the killing of Martin remains a seminal moment in race relations and a pivotal event that contributed to the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement. Now, an upcoming docuseriesRest in Power: The Trayvon Martin Story chronicles not just his tragic death, but also the surrounding story of race, power, politics, money, and the U.S. criminal justice system.

A New Docuseries on Trayvon Martin’s Death

The six-part docuseries is based on the book Rest in Power: The Enduring Life of Trayvon Martin written by Martin’s parents Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin and published in January 2017. Produced by music mogul Jay-Z and the Paramount network, a 26-second trailer was released on Monday, February 26, 2018.

Trayvon Martin

Trayvon Martin; Photo: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TkjGimw3Efs

Martin Reported as “Suspicious”

It was on February 26, 2012 when Martin was returning to his father’s fiancée’s house after buying a bag of Skittles and an Arizona iced tea that he was seen by Zimmerman, a member of the community watch. The neighborhood had been the target of several robberies around the time, and Zimmerman reported Martin to the police saying, that he looked “suspicious.”

Zimmerman followed Martin against the advice of the police dispatcher.

Teen Shot Following Altercation

Moments later, the two got into an altercation, and Zimmerman fatally shot Martin in the chest. Zimmerman, who was injured in the encounter, claimed that he fired at Martin in self-defense and was not charged at that time. Police said that there was no evidence to disprove his claim of self-defense, and that Florida’s “stand your ground” law prevented law enforcement officials from arresting or charging him.

Zimmerman Acquitted by Jury

After the media’s attention on the shooting became a national topic of discussion, Zimmerman was eventually charged in and tried for Martin’s death. However, a jury acquitted him of second-degree murder and manslaughter in July 2013.

George Zimmerman

George Zimmerman; Photo: Joe Burbank-Pool/Getty Images

Autopsy Report Provides Details

The autopsy report stated that Trayvon Martin was killed by a single gunshot to the chest, fired by Zimmerman at intermediate range. According to reports, patterns caused by gunpowder wounds near the bullet “suggest that Zimmerman fired inches away from the teenager.” Martin’s autopsy revealed a small abrasion on his left ring finger, which seemed to support Zimmerman’s claim that Martin punched him. Though many argue that the abrasion could have occurred if the teen was attempting to defend himself.

A Nation Immersed in Introspection

Martin’s death opened a virtual can of worms with rallies, marches, and protests being held all across America. It led to a national debate on racial profiling, social justice, and “stand your ground” laws. The governor of Florida put together a task force to examine the state’s self-defense laws. Trayvon Martin’s name was tweeted more than two million times in the first 30 days after his death. More than 1,000 people came to pay their respects before his funeral on March 3, 2012, in Miami, Florida.

Million Hoodie March for Trayvon Martin, April 2012

Million Hoodie March for Trayvon Martin, April 2012; Photo: David McNew/Getty Images

Fissures in Society That Must Be Addressed

The docuseries will premiere in July 2018 and is expected to pull people’s attention to a gaping wound in the country’s psyche that refuses to heal. Trayvon Martin’s death and George Zimmerman’s acquittal, considered a major injustice by many, brought to light major fissures in American society. The case continues to be a focal point in discussions of race. Come July, a lot more people will find it difficult to forget Trayvon Martin’s life and death.

Take a look at the Rest in Power: The Trayvon Martin Story trailer below:


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