Tracy Martin: Don't Let the Verdict Sum Up Who Trayvon Was

The still-grieving father tells congressional panel his son's death won't be in vain.

Posted: 07/24/2013 05:42 PM EDT

A cloud of sadness still hovers above Tracy Martin's head. As he noted during a Capitol Hill hearing Wednesday afternoon, the death of a child is something that's impossible to get over.

But unable to turn back the clock on Trayvon's life, Martin is committing his own to ensuring that the world understands why he and Sybrina Fulton were so proud of their son and working to help other families avoid a similar fate.

Martin was in Washington to testify at a Congressional Black Caucus-sponsored hearing called "The Status of Black Males: Ensuring Our Boys Mature Into Strong Men." In addition to his testimony, witnesses explored issues and stereotypes that African-American boys, youths and men throughout the course of life.

"I always say that Trayvon was my hero; he saved my life. To not be there at his time of need is troublesome. And to have his name slandered and demonized … my message to the world is that we won't let this verdict sum up who Trayvon was," Martin said. "I have vowed to do everything in my power to not give up the fight for him and not only the fight for Trayvon but for so many other young, black and brown boys in this country."

Martin said that the Justice for Trayvon Martin Foundation is an opportunity for Fulton and him "to turn a negative into a positive" by working to prevent other children from being killed through special programs that address childrens' needs and raising awareness about Stand Your Ground laws.

He also praised President Obama for the speech he delivered last week about Trayvon and race relations in America. Martin said it was both touching and important to have the world's most influential person comment about his family's experience, particularly from an African-American perspective.

"It sparks a conversation in every household over the dinner table and that conversation is what can we do as parents, as men, as fathers, as mentors to stop this from happening to your child," Martin said.

Martin family attorney Ben Crump in his remarks said that two critical questions must be asked.

"The first is to the Department of Justice: Can a private citizen with a .9 mm gun profile our children, get out of his car and follow and confront our children when the Supreme Court of the United States doesn't even let the police profile based on race alone?" he asked. "We need to know the answer so we know what to tell our children."

If the answer is no, Crump said, will George Zimmerman be held accountable for violating Trayvon's civil rights?

"There also needs to be an amendment to Stand Your Ground Laws that say you can't be the initial aggressor," he said. "You cannot pick a fight, then shoot the person and put your hands in the air and say I was standing my ground."

It's a precedent, he added, that will have a terrible effect on Black and brown boys.

Martin echoed a similar sentiment. Fifty years from now, when he's dead and gone, he said, he hopes Trayvon's name will be attached to some sort of legislation "that says you can't profile our children, shoot them in the heart and say you were defending yourself."

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(Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

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