By Justin Sink
Trayvon Martin's father told lawmakers Wednesday that he hoped conversations stemming from his son's death would help "stop someone else's child from being killed."
He said that the "greatest gift" for a man to receive was a son, and that it was "heart-wrenching" to lose him.
"[Trayvon] was my hero," Tracy Martin said. "He saved my life and not to be there in his time of need is real troublesome."
Tracy Martin met privately with lawmakers ahead of the meeting, which was titled "The Status of Black Males: Ensuring Our Boys Mature Into Strong Men." The caucus was created in March by Rep. Danny Davis (D-Ill.) and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.).
In his public comments, Tracy Martin also credited President Obama for his comments last Friday about the case and the state of race relations in America.
"The most influential man on the planet is weighing in from an African-American's perspective — just to have the president of the United State comment on our situation, it really touches home," Martin said.
The president said there were "very few African-American men in this country who haven't had the experience of being followed when they were shopping in a department store," saying he too had experienced the manifestations of racial prejudice.
"It sparks the conversation in every household over the dinner table, what can we do as parents; what can we do as men; what can we do as fathers; what can we do as mentors to stop this from happening to your child?" Martin said.
The lawmakers present, many of whom are members of the Congressional Black Caucus, thanked Martin for his participation.
Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.) said, "There is nothing more important that could be happening today in this nation than what is happening in this room."
"Trayvon's murder has brought this to the forefront," Wilson said. "Trayvon will go down in history as the martyr who brought to the forefront the causes, the suffering ... of African-American boys."
Trayvon Martin's brother, Jahvaris Fulton, is an intern in Wilson's congressional office.
Holmes Norton called for a re-examination of "stand your ground" laws after Martin's killer, George Zimmerman, was acquitted on second-degree murder and manslaughter charges earlier this month. She said the state statutes were "a clear and present danger to African-American men" and should be "rolled back."
The "stand your ground" self-defense laws in Florida and two dozen other states allow individuals to defend themselves without requiring them to attempt to evade or retreat from a dangerous situation. Although Zimmerman did not employ a "stand your ground" law defense to combat charges in the killing of Florida teen Trayvon Martin, the trial has brought a renewed scrutiny to the statutes.
President Obama also said the laws were worthy of further scrutiny in his remarks last Friday.
"If we're sending a message as a society in our communities that someone who is armed potentially has the right to use those firearms, even if there's a way for them to exit from a situation, is that really going to be contributing to the kind of peace and security and order that we'd like to see?" the president asked.
Georgetown University professor Michael Eric Dyson, former congressman and NAACP President Kweisi Mfume, and David J. Johns, the head of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African-Americans also appeared at the hearing.