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It’s still tough. I do have other children, but any Father’s Day without all your kids is tough. I have a 2-year-old that’s filled a big void that was empty in my life. But of course, we can’t replace Trayvon. Just not having my shadow around on Father’s Day, it’s hard, but we get through. Tyler [Martin’s two-year-old son] has become my shadow. Their personalities are totally different but he reminds me a lot of Trayvon.

As a son, Trayvon was fun. We were very active in each other’s lives and we did a lot of things together. He did things that kids do. He loved skating and riding motorcycles. He was a real fun-loving kid. When you know a person and you know how that person was, the smile erases the hurt. They said Trayvon was a thug, they said Trayvon ran a fight club. None of it was true.

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You don’t know what your kids do 24 hours a day, but I know he wasn’t a thug. When I hear negative stories about him, I think about the kid that saved my life. That’s the kid that I know, that’s the kid that I love. Not the kid as the media tried to portray him. The kid that got shot coming home from the store with Skittles. It hurts because they are assassinating the character of a 17-year old child and uplifting the character of a murderer who is continuing to do stupidity. But God will take care of him. We didn’t have our day in court, but he’ll have his day in court.

Every time another child is taken, whether it’s police brutality or black on black crime that has taken another of our kids’ lives, it has an impact on me. I find myself getting calls all day and through the night about how do I deal with the loss and what’s my road to recovery. For the most part, I kind of just let fathers and mothers know that you can’t let a death bring you closer to God. You already have to have a relationship with God. You start to search for answers and most of the answers are found in spirituality.

I encourage them to lean on family. Don’t be afraid to cry. Everybody heals differently and everybody grieves differently. Some people need counseling. I scheduled an appointment but I never went. It seems like Black America has leaned on us for guidance and they wiped so many of our tears and that really helped. My family went to get counseling and I didn’t. I just handle it in my own way. When I get to the point of really, really missing Trayvon being around, because he was a jokester, I just go to the cemetery and visit the gravesite and talk to him and that really helps me get through my darkest hour. I encourage other fathers to do the same.

On Father’s Day, I think about him a lot. But my kids help me with that. My kids and my fiancée have been really supportive of me. The holidays are tough, especially around Christmas time, because those were some of the moments that we really, really cherished, putting bikes and things together. I think Christmas is the roughest time of the year.

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What I regret most is not seeing him graduate from high school. Every parent wants to see their kid graduate from school, walk down the aisle, go the prom and not getting a chance to see that really bothered me. Not getting a chance to see if he and his significant other would bear a grandchild for us. I kind of think he would have ended up in the military, he was so fascinated with aviation and aircraft. I think that probably would have been his calling.

When you’re really having a difficult time, you have to find strength in someone or something. I encourage fathers who have lost a child to find a support system. Join a church. Join some type of organization that can help take the pain away. The pain is never going to be alleviated, but what you’ll end up doing is finding something to occupy some of those bad thoughts you’re having. I keep myself busy and stay positive and surround myself with good, positive people, pray, go to church. Those are the things that get me by when I’m feeling low.

Me and Ron Davis [Jordan Davis’ father] stay in constant contact, me and Michael Brown, Sr. are in contact, Oscar Grant’s people are in contact. We built this brotherhood. The fathers have an event called The Circle of Fathers. Last year, we brought in about 40-50 men who have lost children to gun violence.

I brought in Tony Gaskins as a motivational speaker and Michael Ervin as a motivational speaker. We did CPR classes and classes on getting back into the community. If you have a broken relationship with your child’s mom, how to mend it. We are doing it again this year. We will cover everything from how to deal with the loss of a loved one to how to have stability in a household.

It’s tough when you lose a child to gun violence and you feel like that child did nothing to put himself in harm’s way. He was just trying to get back home from walking to the store. My oldest son Jahvaris just graduated from college and when he goes out with his friends we’re still protective of him.

Tracy Martin’s Message To Black Fathers was originally published on blackamericaweb.com

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