Manuel Oliver has painted a mural in memory of his son, Joaquin, who was one of the 17 people killed last month in the Parkland, Florida school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High.
The painting was captured by Lex Michael, one of the survivors of the shooting, who posted a short video of Oliver completing the piece. "WE DEMAND A CHANGE," read the huge black letters surrounding the image of Joaquin Oliver, affectionately referred to as "Guac" by his classmates.
The mural is part of "Parkland 17," an art exhibit created by artist Evan Pestaina in Wynwood, Miami, according to a report by CNN. It was organized by Miami Heat player Dwayne Wade, and the other pieces and installations include empty desks with students' names on them, and a phone booth where visitors can "Call Your Rep" to demand action on gun control.
Joaquin’s dad painting. pic.twitter.com/kgGcELFwAy— Lex Michael (@lexforchange) March 11, 2018
"He didn't say anything, he was just breathing heavily while painting," Michael recounted of the moment she watched Oliver finish his mural. "He was very focused. It's not shown in the video but Oliver also took a hammer and created holes in the wall and put flowers in them."
Oliver also reportedly invited other students to sign their names to the mural and write notes for his late son.
Last week, Oliver and his wife founded an organization called Change the Ref. The non-profit aims to empower young activists with the knowledge and tools to pursue the changes they want, and choose a "referee" that will allow for a fair political "fight." Oliver says that it's important for like-minded activists to help and support the teenage survivors in their fight for policy change, rather than just watching in amazement and putting hope on their shoulders.
"They are not the light after the tunnel," Oliver says in a video on the organization's website. "They are the light that is lighting the tunnel right now."1comments
The school shooting in Parkland has sparked a wave of activism unlike any of the other mass shootings in recent history. Many students of Stoneman Douglas High jumped into action almost immediately after the tragedy occurred, channeling their grief into a call to action for lawmakers.
The Florida state government has passed a controversial gun law in response to the shooting, but it left both sides of the polarizing issue deeply unhappy. The students have generally responded poorly to the introduction of a program that will train and arm teachers, putting more guns on campus with the intent of deterring or neutralizing a potential shooter. Meanwhile, conservatives are generally distraught by the raised age restriction on rifles and shotguns, the added waiting period for purchases and the ban on bump stocks.