Vowing to keep fighting for his son Trayvon – even after the man who killed him, George Zimmerman, was acquitted of murder – Tracy Martin said Wednesday that his family wants to turn "negative energy" surrounding their plight into "a positive."
"There's nothing that we can do to bring Trayvon Martin back," Tracy Martin said in Washington. "But if there's something that we can do ... to help other families from going through this, then we're here."
Martin spoke at a Capitol Hill forum entitled, "The Status of Black Males: Ensuring Our Boys Mature Into Strong Men," which is the first such event run by the Congressional Caucus on Black Men and Boys.
The group's co-chair, Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton, explained the forum aimed to address "issues ... spread across the spectrum of the life of black males in America today, clothed in stereotypes from their years as boys, as youth, and finally as men."
"We seek a society that does not define black men and boys, but allows African-American men and boys to define themselves as individuals," said Holmes Norton, who is a nonvoting member of Congress representing the District of Columbia.
The evening of February 26, 2012, Trayvon Martin was walking back from a convenience store to the Sanford, Fla., home of his father's fiancee when he got into a confrontation with Zimmerman. The 17-year-old ended up dead, a shooting Zimmerman argued was in self-defense.
The case soon captivated the nation's attention, shining a light on matters such as race and gun laws, including when or if a person should be able to legally shoot another.
Tens of thousands attended rallies demanding Zimmerman's arrest and accused him of wrongly profiling Martin as a troublemaker. Many more people were glued to their televisions during Zimmerman's second-degree murder trial.
That trial ended with a not guilty verdict late on Saturday, July 13, vindicating Zimmerman's supporters, who believed his actions were understandable for a man who feared for his life.
This sentiment wasn't shared by many at Wednesday's event on Capitol Hill. Still, Holmes Norton said she hopes Martin's story – which she said has "focused attention on black males as nothing else has in decades" – will compel Americans to rethink how they look at black boys and men.
One of those is Trayvon Martin himself, whom Tracy Martin said has had "his name slandered and demonized."
"My message to the world (is) that we won't let this verdict sum up who Trayvon was," the father said. "I vow to do everything in my power not to give up my fight for him."
Central to that effort is the Trayvon Martin Foundation, which was founded in March 2012 by Tracy Martin and Trayvon's mother, Sybrina Fulton.
According to its website, the nonprofit group's purpose is to "create awareness of how violent crime impacts the families of the victims and to provide support and advocacy for those families."
Harkening back to his own child's violent death, Tracy Martin said Wednesday that he hopes parents, mentors and others nationwide will ask themselves what they can do "to prevent this from happening to your child."
"We've taken that negative energy ... and we're trying to turn it into a positive," Tracy Martin said, referring to the uproar over his son's death and later Zimmerman's acquittal.
"What we can do tomorrow – as a nation, as a people – to stop someone else's child from being killed is certainly a positive."