Jordan Davis Was Murdered. Now, His Mother Fights For Gun Control: BUST Interview

by Erika W. Smith

On November 23, 2012, a 17-year-old black teenager named Jordan Davis was murdered by a 45-year-old white man, Michael Dunn, at a gas station in Jacksonville, Florida. Why did Dunn shoot? Because Davis and his friends were playing their “thug music” too loud.

Exactly three years later, on November 23, 2015, HBO will air a documentary on Dunn’s trial and Davis’ death. The film, 3 ½ Minutes, Ten Bullets, contains exclusive footage from the trial, police interrogation footage, prison phone recordings and heartbreaking interviews with Davis’ parents. It’s an unflinching look at the state of racial injustice in the United States today.

“We felt it was important that we be able to tell the story from our perspective and our truth, rather than letting the media choose,” Davis’ mother, Lucia McBath, told BUST of her decision to participate in the documentary. “We wanted to always maintain our truth, maintain our story and in doing so protect Jordan and the boys.”

The film covers the long journey for justice: Dunn’s first trial was declared a mistrial after the jury couldn’t reach a verdict due to an argument based on Stand Your Ground laws, and it wasn’t until a retrial in September 2014 that Dunn was found guilty of the first-degree murder of Jordan Davis and sentenced to life in prison with no chance of parole.

“We were really broken after that first trial. Not completely broken, but broken,” McBath said. “We couldn’t understand how there could be a conviction for the attempted murder charges and not for the murder. That was an eye opener to us, as well, that the justice system was fractured. It was flawed, based upon the notions of implicit vice of people of color that played into what we were dealing with in our own case.”

Since Davis’ death, McBath has become a gun control activist and a spokeswoman for Moms Demand Action For Gun Sense in America. Activism runs in her family: her father was the president of the Illinois chapter of the NAACP for over 20 years and active in the Civil Rights movement. Despite the number of shootings of African Americans that have taken place in the years since Davis’ death, McBath is hopeful for change, mentioning a growing movement of gun violence survivors and the recent rejection of a bill to strengthen Stand Your Ground laws in Tallahassee, Florida. But she’s all too aware of how long these battles for justice have been going on.

“I say that I’m still fighting the battles as my father fought,” McBath says. “I say, he would roll over in his grave if he knew I was having to fight this battle, and specifically because the loss of his grandchild and how Jordan was murdered. It’s disheartening. I keep saying, ‘How have we come to this?’ We’ve been lulled to sleep as a society that everything’s okay.”

She adds, “I think that the racism has still always been there, it’s just been covert. I think systems have been designed and put in place, especially since President Obama’s been in office, that would, so to speak, put minorities back in their place.” She names mass incarceration, policing, the expansion of gun laws: “There’s a quiet system put in place.”

McBath sees the Black Lives Matter movement fighting back, and she recognizes it. “This is the Civil Rights movement of our generation, it really is,” she says. She praises the movement’s use of social media and grassroots activism, but it’s clear that she sees it as a movement for young people: she says, “These millennials in the Black Lives Matter movement, they’re the Freedom Riders of today.”

McBath is adamant that the push for gun control needs to come from minority women, women like her. “Our babies and our families are more disproportionately affected by gun violence than anybody else,” she says, “and I know that women have been in the forefront of any cultural movement. Women, we are doers. We protect our own. We protect our communities, we serve our communities. Minority women have a huge stake in this, in helping to change the tide. ”

For McBath, activism has given her a sense of healing and freedom in the years since her son’s murder. “It’s helped me feel like I’m doing something about it, and that I’m doing it in the name of my son, and I’m doing it in the name of all the other sons that are out here dying that I don’t even know of, and that I’m doing this in the name of Trayvon Martin and all the Trayvon Martins that don’t receive justice, the Eric Garners and the Michael Browns,” she says. “It’s been definitely a form of healing. I don’t know what I would have done had I not had this to do.”

She says, “I’m not devastated anymore over Jordan’s death. Actually, really, to tell you the truth, I’m pretty happy that he doesn’t have to be here through all this. As much as I would rather have him with me, I don’t have to worry about him anymore being stopped and frisked by police, I don’t have to worry anymore about people perceiving him in a certain way because he’s a young black man, I don’t have to worry about him in this society anymore. He’s free. He’s set free.”

3 ½ Minutes, 10 Bullets will air on Monday, November 23 at 9pm EST/PST on HBO.

Photos via 3 1/2 Minutes, 10 Bullets

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Founded in 1993, BUST is the inclusive feminist lifestyle trailblazer offering a unique mix of humor, female-focused entertainment, uncensored personal stories, and candid reporting that tells the truth about women’s lives.

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