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Emmett Till’s Family Shows Support for Trayvon

There are moments when we must turn tragedy into triumph and remember the legacy of those we have lost.

The senseless murders of Trayvon Martin in 2012 and Emmett Till in 1955 have numerous similarities; however, their tragic deaths have forged a bond between the teens’ families and their communities. Airickca Gordon-Taylor, third cousin to Emmett Till talks about his legacy, his mother, Mamie Till Mobly, and Trayvon Martin.

Having grown up in Mamie’s care, Gordon-Taylor was accustomed to the tragic story of her cousin and often helped her aunt prepare for presentations she’d do for churches, conferences, rallies, and other events. Following the death of Mamie in 2003, the Chicago-born activist knew that she had to continue the legacy of both the Tills and began the Mamie Till Mobley Foundation in hopes of nurturing young people and encouraging them to protect their rights.

This weekend, Gordon-Taylor plans to participate in Trayvon Martin Remembrance Weekend in Florida and show her support to his family. Read on to find out more.

JET: How did you become involved with the Trayvon Martin Foundation?

Airickca Gordon-Taylor: I talked with some of my family members and “I said ‘look, we got to say something, look at this case.'” Then we had an opportunity to host an event together during the 50th year celebration of the March on Washington, which was also the 58th anniversary of the murder of Emmett Till. So we brought the two families together for a talk and had a screening of The Untold Story of Emmett Louis Till with footage about Trayvon Martin. It was a special screening and we discussed what’s going on today with the new generation. We had to get involved with the Trayvon Martin foundation and develop a relationship with them and when we found out about the Remembrance Weekend, I knew for a fact that I wanted to be there because it is one thing to read about something and another thing to be a part of it. When you really get to know the family, and you get to know the heart of the family, it makes a difference. Sybrina Fulton reminds me a lot of Mamie Till Mobley. A lot of these mothers who are suffering loss of their children–they each possess a quality that Mamie possessed, they may not be exactly like her, but Sybrina Fulton is out today speaking against the violence and fighting for legislative changes, especially against the Stand Your Ground law, and she really reminds me of Mamie. I guess that is why I really gravitate toward that foundation and family.

JET: Why did you choose to co-create the Mamie Till Mobley Foundation? 

AGT: I heard Rev. Al Sharpton say in an interview with Oprah Winfrey that people really love you when they invest in you and there is no guarantee on their investment. Mamie never had anymore children…who else was going to carry on her legacy? For me, to be in that household and have that privilege, it was for a reason. That’s why I am going to do everything I can to try to have a sustainable foundation that will continue the work that she started, so that when I am gone, at least the foundation can continue. You have to continue. Too many of our children don’t know who Emmett Till was or any of the other Civil Rights leaders. They don’t know their history. It is not just about image, it is beyond image.

JET: Why do you think the legacies of Trayvon Martin and Emmett Till are still important today and need to be preserved?

AGT:  There are so many similarities between Emmett Till and Trayvon Martin. Unfortunately, Trayvon has not been the last since his murder, we have so many other ones like Kendrick Johnson. There are so many other young people who are being murdered, especially with these laws now. There is a young man now who was frisked and injured in his private area by a policeman to the degree that he can’t have children now. You have all of these instances and he wasn’t murdered, but look at the laws and look at how that’s acceptable behavior from an officer. There are certain instances where our children are just being mistreated and murdered. It is important that our young people learn their rights and learn how to conduct themselves.

When the police stopped Oscar Grant and the man that was with him, there were so many ways that some of that could have been prevented and you can use that to better teach our young kids how to better handle a situation like that. These are teachable moments and we might not be able to change every law or stop everyone, but we can change some of them. Mamie was not able to stop every crime or lynching, but she was out there fighting. People got angry and they stood up and started fighting for their rights. Things changed and they started a movement in America. So if we continue to teach our children, we can change the shift of what’s going on right now so that our children can survive.

Find out more details about plans for the Trayvon Martin Remembrance Weekend, here.