The Father of Trayvon Martin, Tracy Martin, testifies as a defense witness in George Zimmerman trial in Seminole circuit court, July 8, 2013 in Sanford, Florida. Donnelly identified the screams as belonging to Zimmerman. Zimmerman has been charged with second-degree murder for the 2012 shooting death of Trayvon Martin. (Joe Burbank-Pool/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON -- The father of Trayvon Martin discussed his son's death and the profiling of black men Wednesday at the inaugural meeting of the Congressional Caucus on Black Men and Boys.
Tracy Martin also thanked President Obama for his remarks on race after the acquittal of George Zimmerman in Trayvon's death. The July 13 verdict prompted rallies across the country in support for Trayvon and calls for a nationwide discussion on racial issues.
"We won't let the verdict sum up who Trayvon was," said Tracy Martin, explaining that he wants to be part of a national conversation about senseless violence and crime.
The caucus, co-chaired by Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., and Rep. Danny Davis, D-Ill., was started in March to raise awareness about issues that disproportionately affect black men and youths.
"We as adults have to press lawmakers and judges to tell us it's not acceptable to profile our children and chase them," said Benjamin Crump, Tracy Martin's attorney, who will also attend the event. "We have to protect our children because young black boys are profiled and it leads to these confrontations that shouldn't happen."
Zimmerman, 29, a neighborhood watch volunteer in a gated townhouse community in Sanford, Fla. shot and killed Trayvon on Feb. 26, 2012, as the teen returned home from buying snacks at a convenience store. Zimmerman, who is Hispanic, said he shot the unarmed black teenager in self-defense during a fight.
A jury deliberated for more than 15 hours before finding Zimmerman not guilty of second-degree murder and manslaughter.
Last week, Obama said all Americans should respect the jury's verdict, but white Americans should also understand that African Americans are pained by Trayvon's death and continue to face racial discrimination.
"Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago," the nation's first African-American president said.
Trayvon's parents have said Obama's statement should be part of an ongoing dialogue about race, profiling and the criminal justice system. Tracy Martin is expected to continue that conversation with his remarks Wednesday afternoon.
Also scheduled to speak: Kweisi Mfume, former congressman and NAACP President ; Michael Eric Dyson, author and Georgetown University Professor; and David J. Johns, executive director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans. They will discuss phases of a black man's life including childhood, teenage years and manhood.
"Fifty years after the March on Washington it is an unfortunate fact that today young black men are still more likely to be unemployed, to be expelled from school, to be stopped at random on the street because they have been profiled, to be sent to prison, to not have access to regular quality health care, or to have suffered gun violence," co-chair Davis said in a statement.