312 minutes.

That's all it took for 45-year-old Michael Dunn to approach black boys listening to loud music at a gas station, shoot 10 bullets into the car of unarmed teens, and leave 17-year-old Jordan Davis dead.

Those 3 12 minutes in Jacksonville, Florida, on Nov. 23, 2012, didn't just end Jordan's life. They sparked a case ("the loud music murder") that transfixed the nation. They added a landmark story to an ongoing movement about gun violence and the deadly impact of racism.


And those 3 12 minutes changed the lives of Jordan's parents, Ron Davis and Lucy McBath, forever.

"312 Minutes: Ten Bullets," the Sundance Award-winning documentary premiering Monday, Nov. 23 on HBO (three years to the day after Jordan's murder), is an intimate look inside the courtroom of the riveting and at times unbelievable trial as well as an up-close and personal look at Jordan's short life.

I had the honor of speaking individually with each of Jordan's parents in advance of the HBO premiere.

I've shared my dialogue with them below, edited for brevity and clarity. At the end of the interview, Lucy gives a chilling reason why you — and everyone — should tune in and watch the film.

EWS: Why was it important for you to share your story, Jordan's story, with the world? Why did you want this film made?

Lucy: Well, because we had paid heed to previous cases, specifically Travyon [Martin]'s case. We watched how Trayvon had been vilified and demonized as a young man of color who was up to no good, even though he wasn't doing anything other than just existing. And so we decided very early on that our truth needed to be told. And it needed to be told by us, his parents. That we didn't need anybody to speak for us. We would tell our story, it would be honest, and it would be raw.

We also wanted to prick the [consciousness] of those that are watching the film. We wanted to open conversations in people's homes and in churches and in businesses and academia about implicit bias, Dunn's racism, and gun violence. We knew that the only way that we could really elevate what we were trying to do is to expose ourselves as a means to motivate people to create some kind of change.

Jordan Davis. Photo by Cady & Cady Studios, courtesy of HBO.

EWS: So how did you know the time was right?

Ron: Very early on, people started approaching us about doing a film, and nothing felt right. But then my lawyer received a letter from Minette Nelson, the woman in charge of The Filmmaker Fund in San Francisco. In the letter, she told me how her son had a friend that was 16 years old who had been killed, and his name was also Jordan. An article about our Jordan in Rolling Stone touched him so much that he brought it to her and she read it and cried and said "Look, I'm going to try to reach out."

When I read the letter, it was so heartfelt. It felt like this person got it. I picked up the phone and called her and we had a 30 minute cry-all conversation, both of us crying and I said, “You get it."

"We decided very early on that our truth needed to be told. And it needed to be told by us, his parents. That we didn't need anybody to speak for us. We would tell our story, it would be honest, and it would be raw."
— Lucy McBath

EWS: How does it feel to go through such personal, emotional moments on film? Did you forget the camera was there or was it always on your mind?

Ron: Most of the time, we forgot the camera was there. You see my emotion at the table when I start taking about Jordan in the beginning of the film and just start crying. I forgot the camera was there then. I was just being emotional. Whether I was talking or swimming or crying, I was just living my life.

Ron Davis grieving and remembering his son at the cemetery. Photo courtesy of HBO.

EWS: There were so many moments like that one, that showed what it was like as a parent who has lost a child. Have you heard from other parents about that?

Ron: Yes. Not just other grieving parents, but also other parents who have experienced something similar. For example, we do work with the family of Oscar Grant [who was killed by a police officer in California and whose story is told in the film "Fruitvale Station"], his Uncle Bobby, his mother.

When Mike Brown was killed in Ferguson, I happened to be speaking at the United Nations conference in Geneva and I was the first person to talk to the UN about it as an example of racial discrimination in the United States.

Then I went to Ferguson and I welcomed Michael Brown's father into a club that no one wants to be a member of, just like Trayvon Martin's father had welcomed me into that club right after Jordan's death.

I also told him to find your voice. When these things happen, it's hard to find your voice. That's why you hear so many representatives — like the Al Sharptons and the Jesse Jacksons — because as a parent you're so devastated, it's hard to find your voice. But for me, I knew that no one was going to tell the story of Jordan right but his parents, because no one knows my son better than us. So I didn't want anyone to speak for us.

EWS: One of the things that struck me about this case is that it got at the heart of so many issues — racism, gun violence, "stand your ground" — has the film been able to spark meaningful conversations around those issues?

Lucy: At a recent film festival, I had grown men coming up to me and crying, crying. Three of them. Two were young white males, millennials, and one was an older black male, maybe in his 40s. All of them bawling.

The older black gentleman said, "I know that this has existed, I know I've experienced it. But I have been remiss in not doing anything about it. And I'm a teacher. And I'm going to go back and have these discussions in my classroom. It awakened a sense of activism in me."

"When you're 17 and you see another 17-year-old get killed, guess what you feel? You feel like it could be you any day, any time. And I hate that. I hate that they have to feel their mortality."
— Ron Davis

One of the young white men was sobbing and saying: “I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry that my people have done this to you." But beyond saying "we're sorry for your loss," people are saying something's got to change and I've got to be a part of the change. And that's what we need people to do. It's like a spiritual awakening in a sense because we're dealing with a heart issue, a moral issue.

People have the propensity to not be concerned about what is not their reality. But when you expose the reality to people, when you show them the truth, anybody that has a sense of moral fiber can't go away from it not being affected.

Lucy McBath testifying before Congress against "stand your ground" laws. Photo courtesy of HBO.

EWS: During one of your prayers in the film, you say “I'm still human because I doubt." What about now? Do you still doubt? Or do you have hope?

Lucy: Well, I have to have hope. You have to have hope to do this kind of justice work. It's a very heavy mantle. Anytime you're doing it, you have to hope that change is gonna come. Ron and I have T-shirts that say "Hope Dealers" because that's what we want to offer the nation and communities that are disproportionately affected by the violence: a sense of hope.

We want them to know that there is an awakening happening now. You've got the Black Lives Matter folks that are mobilizing, you've got gun violence prevention advocacy, you've got mothers groups, grassroots groups popping up all over the country. People are definitely paying attention to what is happening, and that has to instill in you a sense of hope.

People do have to understand that this is going to be a long, long, long fight and battle. When you talk about how long it's taken to build this culture of fear and implicit bias and racism and policing — these structures have been building for years, and you don't tear them down overnight.

Anytime you change a culture — like with LGBT equality, like with Mothers Against Drunk Driving, like with the tobacco industry — it begins long before you see the victories in the newspaper or on TV. But yeah, there's hope because it — protecting the sanctity of life as God intended for us — is the moral, right thing to do.

EWS: What message does Michael Dunn's guilty verdict send to America?

Lucy: I don't think the guilty verdict was enough. It offers some semblance of hope, but it's not enough because we're one of the only cases that did see justice. There are far more cases where they did not receive justice, there's no indictment, there's no conviction than there are cases like ours. So there's a lot more work that needs to be done.

Police interviewing Michael Dunn after Jordan's killing. Photo by Ana Hop, courtesy of HBO.

EWS: And to you, Ron? What did the verdict symbolize to you?

Ron: It said that this black life matters. Also, the state of Florida said that Michael Dunn was not right in coming into Jacksonville and killing one of its citizens. I wanted that validation from the state of Florida to say that Jordan's life matters and that Michael Dunn had no right to kill him.

EWS: Aside from the obvious trauma of losing your son, how have you changed over these past three years? Do you see the world any differently?

Lucy: Like anyone else, when you're working day to day and you're trying to raise children and you're trying to, you know, keep a roof over your head — trying to do all the things that you normally have to do just to exist — you hear the news, hear things that are happening in the country, and in some way you think: “Well, that's not going to happen to me. That's really not going to affect me." And you kind of go on about your own reality and live your life kind of in a bubble.

I thought that this country was more “post-racial" than it actually is. Because to tell you the truth, we lived in an upscale neighborhood, and Jordan had access to good schooling. His father and I did well financially and have always been able to provide. We never struggled. So we were living in our own little reality. I did not really understand the depth of racism in this country until these cases like Trayvon and Jordan. I certainly didn't understand how systemic it is.

"People have the propensity to not be concerned about what is not their reality. But when you expose the reality to people, when you show them the truth, anybody that has a sense of moral fiber can't go away from it not being affected."
— Lucy McBath

I'm shocked because of my experience living in my father's house, entrenched in the civil rights movement, and being hauled around in the car with him as children as he was speaking around the country. I have pictures of my father with Lyndon Baines Johnson as he signed the Civil Rights Act and Eleanor Roosevelt and Roy Wilkins and all the work that he did. And so I can't believe that I'm still fighting the same fight that Daddy fought 50 years later.

EWS: What response do get from young people when they see this film?

Ron: They come up to me and most of them say, “I hope my parents are going to be this strong for me if something ever happens to me." They feel their mortality. When you're 17 and you see another 17-year-old get killed, guess what you feel? You feel like it could be you any day, any time. And I hate that. I hate that they have to feel their mortality. They're supposed to be able to love and embrace life and live like they're gonna live another 80 years, you know?

Young protesters outside the courthouse during Michael Dunn's trial. Photo courtesy of HBO.

EWS: One of the most beautiful and unforgettable moments in the film is when you are watching footage of your son and bobbing your head along with him. What was going through your head in that moment?

Ron: I was remembering how Jordan use to hate riding in my car because I don't have an MP3 receiver, so he used to listen to my Motown records. He knew all the Motown songs.

One of his favorite groups was The Brothers Johnson "Strawberry Letter 23." He liked that bass. So I was thinking about that as I saw him dancing and listening to his music, and I said to myself: “I wish I had more days of listening to his music with him. I wish I had more days of bobbing my head to his music, even though I'm not into hip-hop. I would have loved to just one more time bob my head to his music while he was listening."

And so I felt that kinship with him, and it made me smile. And cry.

Ron Davis and Lucia McBath. Photo courtesy of HBO.

EWS: What do you want this film to do?

Ron: It's gonna reconnect the public with the families and victims. I remember thinking in the Trayvon Martin case, the jury was disconnected from him. They connected more with George Zimmerman. And this is a way to help people who serve on juries, people who don't have exposure to young black kids or to African-Americans period, to see us.

They have to, some way, connect with what we go through and what these kids go through. Looking at this film, they'll connect with us and say, “They look just like us, they have heartaches just like us, they doubt, they hope, and they look for the justice system to prevail just like we do." So I want everyone to take from this film who we are, how much we hurt when we lose a loved one. And our humanity.

EWS: And why should people tune in and watch it?

Lucy: Because their lives may depend upon it.

"312 Minutes" premieres Nov. 23, 2015, on HBO at 9 p.m. ET/PT. It will replay on Nov. 24 at 3:05 a.m. ET/PT and Nov. 28 at 1:45 p.m. ET/PT. It will also be available on HBO Now and HBO Go.

Connections Academy

Wylee Mitchell is a senior at Nevada Connections Academy who started a t-shirt company to raise awareness for mental health.

True

Teens of today live in a totally different world than the one their parents grew up in. Not only do young people have access to technologies that previous generations barely dreamed of, but they're also constantly bombarded with information from the news and media.

Today’s youth are also living through a pandemic that has created an extra layer of difficulty to an already challenging age—and it has taken a toll on their mental health.

According to Mental Health America, nearly 14% of youths ages 12 to 17 experienced a major depressive episode in the past year. In a September 2020 survey of high schoolers by Active Minds, nearly 75% of respondents reported an increase in stress, anxiety, sadness and isolation during the first six months of the pandemic. And in a Pearson and Connections Academy survey of US parents, 66% said their child felt anxious or depressed during the pandemic.

However, the pandemic has only exacerbated youth mental health issues that were already happening before COVID-19.

“Many people associate our current mental health crisis with the pandemic,” says Morgan Champion, the head of counseling services for Connections Academy Schools. “In fact, the youth mental health crisis was alarming and on the rise before the pandemic. Today, the alarm continues.”

Mental Health America reports that most people who take the organization’s online mental health screening test are under 18. According to the American Psychiatric Association, about 50% of cases of mental illness begin by age 14, and the tendency to develop depression and bipolar disorder nearly doubles from age 13 to age 18.

Such statistics demand attention and action, which is why experts say destigmatizing mental health and talking about it is so important.

“Today we see more people talking about mental health openly—in a way that is more akin to physical health,” says Champion. She adds that mental health support for young people is being more widely promoted, and kids and teens have greater access to resources, from their school counselors to support organizations.

Parents are encouraging this support too. More than two-thirds of American parents believe children should be introduced to wellness and mental health awareness in primary or middle school, according to a new Global Learner Survey from Pearson. Since early intervention is key to helping young people manage their mental health, these changes are positive developments.

In addition, more and more people in the public eye are sharing their personal mental health experiences as well, which can help inspire young people to open up and seek out the help they need.

“Many celebrities and influencers have come forward with their mental health stories, which can normalize the conversation, and is helpful for younger generations to understand that they are not alone,” says Champion.

That’s one reason Connections Academy is hosting a series of virtual Emotional Fitness talks with Olympic athletes who are alums of the virtual school during Mental Health Awareness Month. These talks are free, open to the public and include relatable topics such as success and failure, leadership, empowerment and authenticity. For instance, on May 18, Olympic women’s ice hockey player Lyndsey Fry will speak on finding your own style of confidence, and on May 25, Olympic figure skater Karen Chen will share advice for keeping calm under pressure.

Family support plays a huge role as well. While the pandemic has been challenging in and of itself, it has actually helped families identify mental health struggles as they’ve spent more time together.

“Parents gained greater insight into their child’s behavior and moods, how they interact with peers and teachers,” says Champion. “For many parents this was eye-opening and revealed the need to focus on mental health.”

It’s not always easy to tell if a teen is dealing with normal emotional ups and downs or if they need extra help, but there are some warning signs caregivers can watch for.

“Being attuned to your child’s mood, affect, school performance, and relationships with friends or significant others can help you gauge whether you are dealing with teenage normalcy or something bigger,” Champion says. Depending on a child’s age, parents should be looking for the following signs, which may be co-occurring:

  • Perpetual depressed mood
  • Rocky friend relationships
  • Spending a lot of time alone and refusing to participate in daily activities
  • Too much or not enough sleep
  • Not eating a regular diet
  • Intense fear or anxiety
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Suicidal ideation (talking about being a burden or giving away possessions) or plans

“You know your child best. If you are unsure if your child is having a rough time or if there is something more serious going on, it is best to reach out to a counselor or doctor to be sure,” says Champion. “Always err on the side of caution.”

If it appears a student does need help, what next? Talking to a school counselor can be a good first step, since they are easily accessible and free to visit.

“Just getting students to talk about their struggles with a trusted adult is huge,” says Champion. “When I meet with students and/or their families, I work with them to help identify the issues they are facing. I listen and recommend next steps, such as referring families to mental health resources in their local areas.”

Just as parents would take their child to a doctor for a sprained ankle, they shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help if a child is struggling mentally or emotionally. Parents also need to realize that they may not be able to help them on their own, no matter how much love and support they have to offer.

“That is a hard concept to accept when parents can feel solely responsible for their child’s welfare and well-being,” says Champion. “The adage still stands—it takes a village to raise a child. Be sure you are surrounding yourself and your child with a great support system to help tackle life’s many challenges.”

That village can include everyone from close family to local community members to public figures. Helping young people learn to manage their mental health is a gift we can all contribute to, one that will serve them for a lifetime.

Join athletes, Connections Academy and Upworthy for candid discussions on mental health during Mental Health Awareness Month. Learn more and find resources here.

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