Democracy in Action: Sybrina Fulton & the Circle of Mothers
At Democracy Clothing, we’re inspired by change-making women. And we’re committed to amplifying the stories of women like Sybrina Fulton, who has dedicated her life to transforming tragedy into change since the death of her son Trayvon in 2012. Moving from pain to purpose, Sybrina founded the Trayvon Martin Foundation and began the Circle of Mothers as a place for mothers who, like Sybrina, have experienced the unfathomable - the loss of a child to senseless gun violence - to come together and support one another.
Three years ago, Democracy Clothing founder Caren Lettiere witnessed firsthand the restorative power of the Circle of Mothers as an Ambassador and provided the gift of comfort and support through the donation of “Ab”solution jeans to all the mothers. This year, in addition to volunteering at the weekend retreat and contributing jeans, the Democracy Team is honored to raise awareness and funds to support Circle of Mothers through a month-long campaign.
Read on to learn more about Sybrina’s change-making work in the first of a new series on the blog focused on women and social impact. We hope you’ll be inspired as we are by what Sybrina has made possible through Circle of Mothers and that you’ll join us in supporting this year’s transformative healing retreat.
Ten years after the death of her son, Sybrina Fulton is more determined than ever to make sure other mothers grieving the loss of their child can find comfort, healing and empowerment in community with one another. Just days before her annual Circle of Mothers Healing Retreat, with the support of family members and volunteers equally committed to the cause, Sybrina is laser-focused, attending to every detail of the weekend.
From her deeply personal opening remarks to the carefully curated gifts each mother receives, between the Friday night pajama party designed to break the ice, the healing session on Saturday and the Sunday morning prayer service where each child is honored, there is magic in the sequence of events. There is love and understanding poured into each moment.
The inspiration for her vision came when she was least expecting it, one night in a dream, where she was at a gathering of women laughing, crying, hugging and speaking.
Upon reflection, Sybrina realized the experience of the dream was everything she needed after her loss. “When my son was tragically killed, there was no program like Circle of Mothers. There was no retreat, there was no anything that I was involved in or invited to, where I could be with other mothers who understood my pain.”
Emboldened by her dream, Sybrina got up and started writing notes as if she had already attended this retreat. Soon after, Sybrina gathered her team and got to work creating the retreat as the support network she needed as she navigated grief and loss in her own life.
Since then, Circle of Mothers has welcomed over 250 women over the course of the last seven years. Though each mother has their own unique story to tell of how senseless gun violence took the life of their child, they are united by a love that endures and a spark to impact change in their communities. After Circle of Mothers, they have gone on to create community initiatives of their own, and even run for public office.
One such mother, who attended the healing retreat in 2019, the same year Democracy became involved, is Shirl Baker. Her beautiful daughter DeEbony Groves was 21 years old when she was shot and killed during a shooting that took the lives of DeEbony and three other people at a Waffle House in Antioch, Tennessee .
When she arrived at Circle of Mothers, a year after her loss, she was still reeling and numb. The first night she sat next to Sybrina and was immediately touched by her kindness and compassion. She remembers saying to Sybrina that night “thank you for pursuing your dream.” After a weekend of healing laughter and tears, education and inspiration, Shirl left with a network of other women she could lean on and a conviction to create a foundation of her own.
Three years later, Shirl’s DeEbony Groves Foundation’s mission is to restore hope for the future and provides the same kind of comfort and support she received to mothers in the Tennessee area. The mothers who arrive to her annual event have children whose tragic stories don’t make the news, but in the company of others and Shirl Baker, know that their child is not forgotten.
Shirl believes DeEbony, who was weeks away from graduating with a degree in social work when she died, would be proud of the work she’s doing to help other mothers. Every Sunday on her way back from church, Shirl stops by DeEbony’s grave where she will share news about what she’s creating and ask for guidance. She knows she is keeping her daughter’s legacy alive.
Shirl is grateful every day for the ways that Sybrina and Circle of Mothers opened windows and doors for her and the other mothers she has grown to love at the healing retreat. She speaks daily to many of them and several traveled out of state to volunteer at her annual event and provide support. They are members of a club they didn’t want to join. But they have learned to make the best of their tragedy, following in Sybrina’s purposeful path and turning pain into purpose.
Democracy Clothing is honored to know mothers like Sybrina Fulton and Shirl Baker to share their stories. We hope you’ll join the Democracy family in supporting Sybrina’s dream realized in the Circle of Mothers. Throughout the month of May, customers can add on a donation for Circle of Mothers on any purchase at democracyclothing.com.
All donations will support the expenses of this May’s healing retreat, bringing together 100 grieving mothers from across the country. Together, we can help these mothers, who have experienced the worst tragedy, to find comfort and empowerment with one another and turn their pain into purpose.
Beyond her work in hosting and shaping Circle of Mothers, Sybrina and her team at the Trayvon Martin Foundation offer a youth summit and summer camp that reaches up to 1200 kids a year. She has also become a powerful public speaker and writer, completing a second book about her family’s experience. And she recently led the way toward a 10-year memorial for the Trayvon Martin Foundation. To learn more about her work and impact visit https://www.circleofmothers.org and https://www.trayvonmartinfoundation.org/.