The father of Trayvon Martin took the stage at a local university Saturday — just days after the three-year anniversary of his son's death.
Tracy Martin had a conversation with Philadelphia Daily News columnist Solomon Jones in front of an audience as part of an evening of events that began at 5 p.m. Saturday at Arcadia University in Glenside, Pa.
“I think the next step for all of us is becoming more educated on how the law applies to us,” Martin said. “How the police work.”
Dubbed "Letters to Trayvon: A Celebration of Black Men and Boys," the night also featured the three winners of a citywide letter writing contest for high school students. The teens wrote letters "expressing how they felt when they heard about the death of Trayvon Martin," according to LettersToTrayvon.com. One letter was written by Michael DeShield, a student at Abington High School.
“We can make a difference, Trayvon,” DeShield wrote. “I thought I’d just let you know that your death was not in vain. Thank you.”
The unarmed 17-year-old Florida boy was shot to death Feb. 26, 2012 by a neighborhood watch volunteer, George Zimmerman. Zimmerman said the fatal shooting was in self-defense and he was acquitted by a jury in July 2013 on all state charges.
During the event, Tracy Martin emphasized the importance of family values and parenting.
“We’ve kind of lost the love and respect for other man,” he said. “If our young people don’t respect themselves, they’re not going to respect you. We have to get back to basic parenting 101.”
As the live interview began at 7:30 p.m., a 48-hour social media campaign came to an end. The online push was meant to "flood the internet with positive images of black men and boys, articles, quotes, poetry, and music that speaks to the challenges and triumphs of black men and boys," the website continued.
“We hope we can get other people to come on board and understand that this is about humanity,” said Dr. Doreen Loury of Arcadia University. “Not a black and white thing. This is about humanity.”
Using the hashtag #LTT2015, users began sharing images of Trayvon in a hoodie, as well as shots of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X and other civil rights leaders Thursday at 7:30 p.m. — the time the Florida teen was pronounced dead three years ago that day.
“People need to get real about the fact a person’s race really impacts the way that they’re treated in America in every aspect of their life,” said Lawanda Horton, an organizer for the event.
A VIP reception, which cost $50 to attend, was hosted by The Black Male Development Symposium, Mission Inc. and Arcadia's Pan African Studies Program. Proceeds from the event benefit students attending the Black Male Development Symposium and the Trayvon Martin Foundation.