Sybrina Fulton’s life as she knew it ended on February 26, 2012. That’s when her 17-year-old son, Trayvon Martin, who was unarmed, was fatally shot in Sanford, Florida, by a neighborhood-watch volunteer for his gated community.
“I have to endure this every single day,” Fulton tells PEOPLE in a recent interview. “It’s not like an illness, that’s here and goes away and comes back again. It’s constant.”
After her unimaginable loss, Fulton discovered some relief when she reached out to other moms who have lost children to gun violence. Now, she plans annual peace walks in her home state of Florida, works with legislators on gun violence laws and travels around the country speaking at colleges and churches about preventing senseless shootings.
“I didn’t grieve by sitting in the corner and doing nothing,” says Fulton, a Miami resident. “I was able to grieve by working with others, and that is how I believe I was able to move forward.”
Fulton created the non-profit Trayvon Martin Foundation two months after her son’s death sparked national outrage and helped lead to the Black Lives Matter movement. In 2013, the shooter, George Zimmerman, was found not guilty of second degree murder.
Last year, she was named as one of PEOPLE’s 25 Women Changing the World.
Recently, Fulton forged a connection over anti-violence advocacy with Gbenga Akinnagbe, star of HBO’s The Wire and The Deuce.
In a recent interview with PEOPLE, Akinnagbe tells PEOPLE, “I feel like there is no reason for me not to stand up for other people, if this is what this woman does every single day after losing her child.”
On November 28, at 7 p.m., Akinnagbe will host a discussion with Fulton at ABC Home in New York to benefit the foundation’s work.
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“A lot of the evening will be focused on turning tragedy into triumph, turning tragedy into fuel,” says Akinnagbe.
Fulton — a full-time volunteer for the nonprofit — used her tragedy to create the foundation’s Circle of Mothers, a group of moms over 400 strong, almost all of whom have lost their children to gun violence. The aim of the group is to support and heal each other — and to come up with solutions to prevent other mothers from losing their children.
“It was something I needed that wasn’t in place at the time,” she says.“They’ve lost a child, it’s the ultimate grief.”