WASHINGTON (AFP) – Trayvon Martin’s father told U.S. lawmakers the not-guilty verdict in the high-profile murder trial will not define his dead son, saying the case sparked a needed conversation about race.
Speaking in Washington to the opening gathering of a congressional panel on black men and boys, Tracy Martin also expressed gratitude that President Barack Obama — “the most influential man on the planet” — weighed in on the sensitive case “from an African-American perspective.”
The death of black teen Trayvon during a confrontation with neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman sparked a national debate about race in America as well as about the controversial “stand-your-ground” laws that allow someone to use deadly force if they believe their life is in immediate danger.
But Zimmerman’s not-guilty verdict earlier this month triggered simmering anger, with some people noting how the defense team sought to paint Trayvon as a thuggish, drug-using teen.
“To have his name slandered and demonized, I think, as a father, it’s real important that my message to the world is, we won’t let this verdict sum up who Trayvon was,” Martin told lawmakers.
“I’m about to do everything in my power not to give up the fight for him. Not only the fight for Trayvon but the fight for so many other millions of black and brown boys.”
More than 20 members of Congress attended the packed caucus meeting to hear Martin and a host of experts discuss the state of young black men in America, and they gave Martin a standing ovation.
“The loss of 17-year-old Trayvon has focused attention on black males as nothing else has in decades,” said Washington delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton.