The father of slain teenager Trayvon Martin spoke with black lawmakers on Wednesday, telling them he is dedicated to making sure the George Zimmerman trial doesn’t define the legacy of his 17-year-old son.
"I always say Trayvon was my hero. He saved my life,” Tracy Martin said. “Not to be there in his time of need is real troublesome, not to be able to save my son's life."
Martin was speaking to the newly formed Congressional Caucus on Black Men and Boys, to focus attention on issues that disproportionately affect African-American males, such as unemployment, incarceration and racial profiling.
"I vow to do everything in my power not to give up the fight for him, not only the fight for Trayvon but for so many other young black and brown boys in this country," he said.
Tracy Martin and Trayvon's mother Sybrina Fulton founded the Trayvon Martin Foundation to help advance these causes. The senior Martin said Wednesday he would use the group to champion the goals of the caucus.
Congressional caucuses are made up of members of the House who share interest in a given issue and want to focus attention on it while suggesting possible legislative responses, such as the Congressional Black Caucus.
Martin's appearance came a few days after President Barack Obama made remarks identifying himself with the plight of the Florida teenager who was shot and killed last year during a confrontation with Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer.
Zimmerman, 29, said he fired the deadly shot at the unarmed boy in self-defense, and he was acquitted July 13 of second-degree murder and manslaughter charges. The verdict sparked protests and calls for federal officials to charge Zimmerman with violating Trayvon Martin's civil rights. Federal officials are reviewing the case.
David Pate, an associate professor of social work at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, said that the events surrounding Trayvon's death have brought the issues confronting African-American males to national consciousness.
“We have to value the black male as a valuable contributor to society and not a threat to society,” said Pate, who has been studying the economic realities of life for black men for more than two decades.
He added that it is important for the country to actively engage in a discussion about the meaning of race in America.
“We want to be colorblind but colorblindness is not real. The Trayvon Martin incident shows we’re not a color blind society. He was just minding his own business but he presented as someone threatening.”
Later this week, members of the Congressional Black Caucus were to convene a summit in Chicago to consider solutions to the issue of urban gun violence.
Al Jazeera and wire services