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Panel to focus on perceptions of black men in wake of Martin's death

Monday - 4/9/2012, 6:13am  ET

Thomas Warren, wtop.com

WASHINGTON - Perceptions of black men in society, in the wake of Trayvon Martin's death, will be the topic of a community discussion Tuesday night at the D.C. Armory.

It will happen the same day that a grand jury in Florida is scheduled to decide whether or not to charge admitted gunman George Zimmerman with a crime.

Zimmerman has maintained that he shot Martin in self-defense the night of Feb. 26 in a Sanford, Fla. neighborhood.

"The notion of judging a person that you do not know by the fact that he is a black male is very troubling," says Delegate Eleanor Holmes-Norton, who represents D.C. in Congress.

The Commission on Black Men and Boys, which was created by Norton, will host the panel discussion. It will run from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

The panel will feature four black men from the D.C region.

One of them is Charles Rawlings. His son, 14-year-old DeOnte Rawlings, was killed in a 2007 shooting that involved two off-duty D.C. police officers. The officers were not charged in the shooting, and the Rawlings family received a settlement in a civil lawsuit against the city.

Norton says the men will discuss, "what we can do about what amounts to the virtual branding of African-American men so that they are sometimes in danger if they step outside their door."

She says while she supports the rallies, protests, and marches that have occurred around the country, Tuesday's discussion is about making sure black men and boys are better equipped to handle adversity they may encounter in society because of their race.

Following the panel, the public will be allotted two minutes to ask questions of give statements.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)