Jordan Davis was killed over loud music. Now his parents tell their story in a gripping new film.

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.

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Here's to the stepdads who step in and step up to fatherhood.

Happy Father's Day to all the stellar stepdads.

Some fathers are there at the starting line. And some fathers step in partway through the race.

My biological dad left my mom when I was a toddler. I don't even remember living with him, and my memories of weekend visits throughout my early childhood are vague. He loved me, I'm sure, but he eventually slipped off the radar. He wasn't abusive or a massive jerk or anything. He just wasn't there.

Who was there was my Dad. My stepdad, technically, but for all intents and purposes, he was and is my Dad. He stepped in when I was four, and stepped up to raise two kids who weren't his. He went to the parent-teacher conferences, attended the school plays, surprised us with trips to the ice cream shop, taught us how to change a tire. He loved us, not just in word but in action.

As a parent myself, I now understand how hard it must have been to step into that role. Step-parenting involves unique relationship dynamics, and you have to figure a lot of things out as you go along.

My Dad had his own demons from his own childhood to deal with on top of that, and his cycle-breaking parenting still awes me. But he was always there to cheer me on, comfort me, and talk me through life's challenges. He wasn't perfect, but he was there, actively engaged in the marathon of fatherhood every step of the way.

Stepparents are often vilified in stories, but there are millions of awesome stepdads out there.

Without a doubt there are some terrible stepdads (and stepmoms) out there, just as there are some terrible parents in general. But there are a lot of great ones, too.

Alison Tedford's 11-year-old son Liam is lucky to have such a stepdad. Liam shares his time between his mom's and dad's house equally, but when he is with his mom, he's also with his stepdad, Paul. Alison says that Liam adores Paul, who stepped into the stepdad role when Liam was 7. Paul spent the first couple of years carrying Liam to bed every night, per Liam's request. Now that he's too big for that, they practice lacrosse and play video games together.

"To support Liam in his love of lacrosse, Paul took a lacrosse coaching course and is the team statistics manager," says Tedford. "They are best buds and Paul treats him with all the love and kindness he does his own kids. He drives him all sorts of places, goes on field trips, and makes sure he has everything he needs and is having fun. He's a really great stepdad."

These aren't the kinds of stories that make the news. But millions of stepdads dive into supportive, involved parenting as they fall in love with their loved ones' kids.

Having a stepparent is now about as common as not having one.

According to the US Census Bureau, half of the 60 million kids in the U.S. live with a biological parent and the parent's partner. And the most common stepfamily configuration—85% of them—is a mom, her biological kids, and a stepfather. That's a whole lot of stepdads.

Blending families can be complicated, and figuring out how to navigate those waters isn't easy. But family counselor and researcher Joshua Gold calls becoming a stepdad both "a challenge and an opportunity."

"The challenge comes in rejecting previously held beliefs about what it means to be a father," Gold wrote in The Conversation. "Stepfathers – and I count myself as one – must avoid outmoded notions of compensating for the absent biological father or paternal dominance."

"The opportunity comes in devising a parenting role that expresses the best and fullest aspects of being a man and a father figure," he wrote. "Done consciously and deliberately, the role and function of the stepfather can be tremendously fulfilling for all, and a source of lifelong joy and pride."

Here's to the stepdads who step into that role, step up to the challenge, and make the most of the opportunity to have a positive, nurturing influence in children's lives.

Family

'Love is a battlefield' indeed. They say you have to kiss ~~at least~~ a few frogs to find your prince and it's inevitable that in seeking long-term romantic satisfaction, slip ups will happen. Whether it's a lack of compatibility, unfortunate circumstances, or straight up bad taste in the desired sex, your first shot at monogamous bliss might not succeed. And that's okay! Those experiences enrich our lives and strengthen our resolve to find love. That's what I tell myself when trying to rationalize my three-month stint with the bassist of a terrible noise rock band.


One woman's viral tweet about a tacky mug wall encouraged people to share stories about second loves. Okay, first things first: Ana Stanowick's mom has a new boyfriend who's basically perfect. All the evidence you need is in the photograph:

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Family



The Poison Garden of Alnwick www.youtube.com


Plants have the power to heal us, yet plants have the power to harm us. There's an unusual garden that's dedicated solely to the latter. The Poison Garden located on the grounds of Alnwick Castle in Northumberland, England is the deadliest garden in the world. In the Poison Garden, you can admire the plants with your eyes, but you're not allowed to touch or smell anything, because every plant in the garden is poisonous, and can possibly even kill you. The name of the garden should be a dead giveaway.

The garden was created in 2005 when Jane Percy, the Duchess of Northumberland, wanted to show people the scariest plants around. "I wondered why so many gardens around the world focused on the healing power of plants rather than their ability to kill," the Duchess said. "I felt that most children I knew would be more interested in hearing how a plant killed, how long it would take you to die if you ate it, and how gruesome and painful the death might be." Honestly, she's got a point.

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Planet

I had a strange experience in the Vancouver, B.C. airport last week that I can't stop thinking about.

I was on my way to the Women Deliver conference—the largest international conference on the rights, health, and well-being of women and girls. As a woman and an American, I was excited to be immersed in conversations about improving gender equality globally. I was excited to meet people leading movements to improve the lives of women and girls around the world. Justin Trudeau, Melinda Gates, Tarana Burke, and other major movers and shakers were going to be there. The conference had been sold out for months.

As I made my through customs at the Vancouver airport, I expected to feel some excitement about being there. I did not, however, expect to feel what I felt as I left the terminal.

The signs for exiting the Vancouver airport don't say "Exit," they say "Way Out." And as I walked toward the Way Out sign, something about those two words and the realization that I had just left American soil hit hard. A wave of unexpected emotion washed over me.

Relief.

Scenes from The Handmaid's Tale—of people fleeing the hellscape the U.S. had become and seeking asylum in Canada—flashed through my mind. A mere few years ago, such scenes would have felt like far-fetched fiction. But walking toward the Way Out signs in the Vancouver airport, it felt too close to home. For a moment, I had an urge to run toward those signs like my life depended on it. To run toward sanity—toward freedom.

We have "American freedoms" drilled into us from the time we're children. Right now, it feels like a lie.

I hadn't fully realized how psychologically oppressive the U.S. had become until I left it, even just temporarily. The steady drip of regressive policies, the erosion of facts and denial of science, the resurgence of racist and nationalist movements, the daily insanity coming from the highest levels of our government, and the intensely polarized atmosphere here has worn on me more than I realized.

And I'm generally a super positive person. Seriously, I'm like the Pollyanna of politics—if I'm struggling here, what are other people feeling? (I'm also a middle-class white lady whose privilege has prevented me from fully grasping the fear and angst marginalized communities have been feeling for, well, ever. I'm well aware that I'm late to the game of uncertainty.)

Stepping into Canada, I felt like I could fully exhale for the first time in several years, only I didn't even know I had been holding my breath. Ironically, leaving "the land of the free" gave me a keen feeling of freedom and a sense of safety I didn't know I'd lost. I never expected to feel that way leaving my own country.

My internal dialogue has always been, "America, I love you. You aren't perfect, but your positives outweigh your negatives." Now it's, "America, I want to love you. But it's clear that our relationship has become toxic and I'm not sure how much longer I can do this."

Attending a women's rights conference as an American right now was surreal.

The Women Deliver conference was a powerful four days filled with people from 165 countries working to empower women and fight for their health and well-being. Heads of international aid organizations, heads of women's associations, heads of movements, Heads of State, and thousands of others all gathered together to discuss the state of the world's women and girls.

And you want to know the biggest contribution my country made to that conversation? A litany of regressive policies and legislation that prompted a collective, international rallying cry: "We refuse to go backwards."

I got to see some of the ways our current policies affect women not just in the U.S., but outside of it. For example, I was embarrassed by our reimplementation and expansion of the "global gag rule," which removes funding from any organization that so much as mentions abortion—even in countries where abortion is legal—and puts the lives of women and girls at risk.

I don't think most average Americans understand how harmful the global gag rule is. I watched a woman from Kenya share her story of escaping female genital mutilation at age 8. I heard from a woman in Pakistan who escaped child marriage at 11 years old. I watched an 18-year-old from Nigeria who had been kidnapped by Boko Haram at 14 and repeatedly raped until she escaped at 16—eight months pregnant. The organizations that helped these girls focus their work on sexual and reproductive health, including ending child marriage and genital cutting, educating communities on safe sex, and providing resources to prevent unwanted pregnancy. And if any such organization were to inform a child bride whose body would be ravaged by childbirth or a Boko Haram escapee impregnated by violence that abortion was one possible option for them, they would lose all funding from the U.S.

That is criminal. And it is happening. And it's just one backwards policy America is responsible for.

However, I left the conference—and Canada—with a strong sense of hope.

One thing stepping out of the U.S. and meeting agents of change from around the world showed me was that there are so many incredible people doing important, world-changing work out there. The Maasai woman who has helped save 17,000 girls from genital cutting by helping transform coming-of-age rituals into celebrations of girls' hopes and dreams, for example. Orhe 18-year-old Zambian girl who earned a standing ovation from four heads of state after eloquently calling out politicians for being all talk and no action. Or the organizers who pulled together all of these individuals to help women support one another, to stand in their power wherever they live.

I returned to the U.S. not with a sense of dread, but with a sense of purpose. Women are making waves in the world, pushing back against centuries of inequality and patriarchal norms. Naturally, there will be pushback against that pushback, but we will not go backwards.

Everything isn't okay, and we are living in strange times. But there are positive things happening. Old systems have to be broken down in order to build something new. Sometimes a step back clears the way for two steps forward. I have to believe that's where we are right now—poised for a great leap into a better future, where all of us feel free and safe on our own soil.

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