When Sybrina Fulton’s unarmed 17-year-old son Trayvon Martin was shot and killed by a watchman in their Sanford, Florida, neighborhood in 2012, she made it her life’s mission to end senseless shootings in America.
“I want to stay focused on gun violence and how weapons can affect an entire community,” says Fulton, who is one of PEOPLE’s 25 Women Changing the World featured in this week’s issue. “We need to have better control and make sure our kids have the opportunity to grow up.”
Now Fulton, who founded the Trayvon Martin Foundation two months after her son’s death sparked national outrage (and led to the Black Lives Matter movement), is sharing Trayvon’s life and legacy in Rest in Power: The Enduring Life of Trayvon Martin, the book she co-authored with Trayvon’s father, Tracy Martin, that will hit shelves on January 31, 2017.
“Tracy and I want to represent who Travon was and leave a lasting legacy for people to know that he wasn’t just a teenager with a hoodie on,” says Fulton. “His life mattered and his family loved him. We feel like his death could have been avoided. We are doing our part for our son to tell his story since he can’t.”
She adds, “The death of my son could never separate me from the love of my son.”
As one of PEOPLE’s 25 Women Changing the World, Fulton is committed to helping to end senseless gun violence — and healing those affected by it.
“Trayvon will never be forgotten, and even though he’s not here, he knows his mom always has his back,” she says. “I want to make sure his story can reach far. It’s important to empower families and educate our communities.”
Fulton’s book will be released a few days ahead of what would have been her son’s 22nd birthday on February 5.
“Trayvon was only 17 when he was fatally shot, and he didn’t have an opportunity to do a lot of things — like go to prom and graduate from high school or go to college and get married— because of senseless gun violence. Except he wasn’t the one with the gun,” she says. “This is about inspiring lives to save lives.”
Through the Trayvon Martin Foundation, Fulton plans annual peace walks in Florida, works with legislators on gun violence laws and organizes support groups for families of gun violence victims. She also travels around the country speaking at colleges and churches about preventing and coping with senseless shootings.
“A part of my healing when I lost Trayvon was contingent on me helping others heal,” she says. “I feel very connected to other mothers who have lost sons, and I feel it’s important for me to help them through the process.”