At a "Justice for Trayvon" rally in Hempstead Village yesterday, Richard Maddox cradled his 11-month-old son and spoke of his hope for a more tolerant future.
"Maybe when he gets older times have changed," said Maddox, 24, of Westbury.
He was among about 500 protesters who came out in the searing heat to demonstrate near Nassau County District Court, expressing their outrage over George Zimmerman's acquittal a week earlier in the shooting of Trayvon Martin, a black teenager who was unarmed.
Many also took time to reflect on President Barack Obama's emotional message to the nation to do some "soul-searching" in the wake of the verdict. Obama spoke about how he had been racially profiled as a younger man.
Maddox, a Suffolk County Community College student who is African-American, said he, like Obama, has seen people cross the street or lock their car doors as he neared.
Maddox said he knows what it's like to be followed while shopping in stores, or to be hassled by police.
"I relate to it," he said of Obama's remarks. "I live through it every day."
Sarah Mitchell, 21, of Hempstead, a black activist who leads a Facebook group called Action, Responsibility and Care, said the president offered insight into what it can be like to be a minority in America.
"It's a breath of fresh air," she said. "Obama has been relatively neutral about issues affecting communities of color. The Trayvon Martin case sparked a national discourse that even Obama couldn't ignore."
For 14-year-old Malik McFadden of Hempstead, Martin's death was sad and senseless.
"He was just there to see his dad and stepmom. Zimmerman should have never killed him," the African-American teen said. "I learned I have to be careful around certain people, because it could happen to me."
McFadden's grandfather, Hempstead Village Trustee Perry Pettus, said he attended the rally to show support for Martin's family and join the call for federal civil rights charges against Zimmerman.
"For a man to kill a kid, there is no way he should have gotten off scot-free," Pettus said. "I brought my grandson because I want him to see what this world is about."
Joining the protesters were two white families, who saw in the rally a teaching moment.
Amanda Vesey-Askey, 46, and Sharon Masrour, 49, two sisters from Bay Shore, brought their daughters, one 10, the other 11.
"We believe in social action, and we wanted to teach the girls to stand up for justice like our parents did," Masrour said.
"We need real and lasting change," Vesey-Askey said. "We need to take the emotions we're feeling now and turn them into change."