Local community leaders are echoing Attorney General Eric Holder’s sentiment that it’s important to use the Trayvon Martin tragedy as a learning tool.
"I have a Master’s degree,” said the Rev. Tony Lee, of Community of Hope Church in the Iverson Mall. “If I put on a hood does that make me a thug? I’m a pastor. If I put on a hood, does that make me a thug?”
The weight of the George Zimmerman not guilty verdict fell heavy in some local communities.
"We used Dr. King’s ‘where do we go from here’ speech to talk about how we don’t stay stuck in the pain of the injustice but how we use this moment to help us push forward," Lee said.
Issues regarding race and class are nothing new in the community.
In 1993, Dorothy Elliot lost her son Archie Elliot III. Police who shot and killed her handcuffed son claimed self-defense.
"They shot 22 times,” Elliot said.
The officers in that case were never indicted, sparking outrage around the area.
“And it just seems like there's never any justice,” Elliot said.
While Artie’s story in District Heights isn't directly related to Trayvon Martin’s story, both ignite a national conversation about what it means to be black in America.
“It's an experience that’s shared in common with the young black man and young black women and black people overall that we already have to live in this paradigm … that we’re being looked at as less than,” Prince George’s County Young Democrats President Larry Stafford said.
People like Daryl Barnes and his nonprofit Men Aiming Higher are working at a grassroots level to prepare young black men for the world we live in.
“Today we still live in a society where we’re being judged,” Barnes said. “That’s why it’s important that these kids pull their pants up. That way they’re not stereotyped.”