“In The Blink Of An Eye, My Whole Life, My Whole World, Changed”

Photo: Cady & Cady Studios/HBO.
Thanksgiving is no longer a normal holiday for Lucia McBath. On the day after Thanksgiving of 2012, her son Jordan Davis was shot and killed by in Jacksonville, FL. His murderer, a white man named Michael Dunn, said the shooting had been justified because he had felt threatened by Davis and his three friends, all Black teenagers. Less than a year after the killing of Trayvon Martin, another unarmed Black 17-year-old was dead. Dunn was eventually convicted of murder and sentenced to life without parole, but not until after his defense team tried to suggest that the teenager was somehow responsible for his own death. A new documentary, 3 1/2 Minutes, Ten Bullets, follows McBath, as well as Davis' father, through Dunn's trial. McBath now works as a national spokeswoman for Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. She spoke to Refinery29 about Jordan, her advocacy work, and parenting even after a child is gone. The film premieres on HBO on Monday, November 23 — the third anniversary of Jordan's death — at 9:00 p.m. EST.

What was it like revisiting the events of Jordan's murder and Michael Dunn's trial?
"It's still just kind of hard to see it onscreen and say, 'Wow, that’s my life.' I watch it and see where I am now versus where I was then, before Jordan died, and I understand that in the blink of an eye my whole life, my whole world changed. I have evolved into this person I didn’t even know existed."

Tell me more about that: What have the biggest challenges been since Jordan’s death.
"Definitely parenting Jordan — even through the trial — still protecting him even through the trial. My parenting and my mothering didn’t stop. And evolving into, as I call it, an accidental activist. Having to learn how to deal with the politics of what's happening in the country. And learning how to make my way through this maze of politics and implicit bias and racism and guns, and through all of it not lose my sense of who I am and what I truly believe. "Now it's a matter of not just mothering Jordan — it's mothering other young men and women in the country that are being gunned down. I know there are a lot of bits and pieces to what's happening. You can't separate mass incarceration from policing and from gun laws, but I stay focused on what I know I can do and what I'll be most effective at, and that is dealing with gun culture."

How do you deal with the biases people bring to discussions about gun violence?
"I'm very quick to put people in check. When I was just testifying for the fourth time before the Florida state legislators in Tallahassee against the expansion of Stand Your Ground, I gave my testimony and then, you know, I told them I'm the mother of a young man who was shot and killed in Jacksonville. They know the story. I've testified before. "And the first thing one of them ever said to me was, ‘Well, did your son have a gun?’ That’s the first thing he said to me. The assumption already was there…that Michael Dunn had a right to do whatever he did because there was the assumption that there was a gun. Because they were four Black male teenagers in a car."

What's it been like for you to see events unfold in the past three years and the rise of Black Lives Matter?
"It's very, very painful because we know it's not stopping. And every single day there's another case, another story. The horrible thing about it is that this has been going on in the urban community all the time. But now it’s been exposed only because of videotaping. "It just continues to happen, and people feel powerless. They feel like, 'What do we do, how do we control this? We don’t know what to do.'"
Tell me about the foundation you started in Jordan's name.
"I founded it because of a discussion I used to have with Jordan once he moved to Jacksonville. He was very concerned about this cloud of systemic racism that he observed there. I remember one day, we had this long discussion, and he was just ranting. He's like, ‘Mom, it's not fair, it's not right. These kids here are just as smart, they're just as bright, but because of where they live and because they're in a predominantly Black school they're never gonna get access to the Harvards and the Yales. They're never gonna get the kind of money to go to schools outside of community colleges. You know,’ he says, ‘they're just not going to.’ So I really took to heart what he was saying. And so I thought, what a great legacy for him to kind of help extend financial support and mentoring support to those very kids that he talked about.” You also work with communities of faith on gun issues. How does that work play out?
"What we see happening with gun culture is a moral crisis. It's absolutely a moral crisis. How can we say that we're one nation under God, in God we trust, when we put more trust and faith in our guns than we do God? We're out of order. Completely out of order. "It is a moral issue. It's a heart issue. It's a faith issue. If you say you're my brother and I'm my brother's keeper, I'm supposed to love, accept, and forgive everyone, if I’m a Christian and I can sit in church with you, but I got to have a gun because I don’t trust you? I've gotta have a gun on me because I fear you? To walk around in fear is a moral issue. When we start replacing moral voices in this country with the gun lobby, we're in trouble." Are you in touch with other mothers who have lost children to gun violence? You met with Hillary Clinton recently.
"I mean, we all see each other at events, but we’re kind of working in separate circles. But every time we see each other, it's just a look in the eye like, ‘We know.’ And we know that the struggle is no easier now than it was when the children died. "So we do encourage each other. I built a relationship with [Trayvon Martin’s mother,] Sybrina Fulton, because it was kind of like she was first and I was second. And I do really admire her strength and courage. I could stand because I watched her stand. And so she's kind of become the mother of this movement today." You mentioned earlier that you felt like you had to be protective of Jordan even after he died. Do you still feel that way?
"Absolutely. I say all the time that God recognizes my need to parent. He just keeps sending young men my way. Young Black men that I talk to a great deal from across the country. They call me Mama Lucy. They text me, they call me. I can encourage them. A lot of them are young activists. And so that’s probably always gonna be something that I feel the need to do. My parenting extends beyond Jordan to these young men because I see Jordan in every one of them."

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