(June 10th, 2019--Jersey City, NJ) Jersey City Mayor Steve Fulop visited Explore to welcome students to a screening of the documentary “How Many Lives?” directed by Duda Penteado. Explore was chosen by Penteado, with the assistance of Mr. Gerald Lyons, as the first school in Jersey City to screen the documentary because many of the students were at the Newport Mall in January when a shooting took place.
"How Many Lives?" follows student artists as they depict numerous well-publicized killings and mass murders, some that are local and deeply personal, others that have occurred across the country. Among the images painted by students on the mural are the Sandy Hook Elementary School, the site of one of the deadliest mass school shootings in American history, Philando Castile, who was shot and killed by police during a traffic stop, and a portrait of Jersey City Det. Melvin Vincent Santiago, who was fatally shot in the line of duty in 2014, which was painted by the late Detective's younger brother, Alex McBride. The mural is located on Kearney Avenue in Jersey City.
In regards to the mural, Mayor Fulop shared with students, “Via the summer arts program and the work that Duda did, we put together something that is driven by your peers, young people, talking about how gun violence has impacted them here in Jersey City. I think it starts a conversation about how to do better from the city’s side of this.”
The Documentary Film is a raw & transparent journey that simultaneously explores the American gun-control dilemma on a national and macro-level while venturing through the micro-complexities that are experienced by a vulnerable group of teens in Jersey City who’ve been directly impacted by the unfortunate deadly reality of having lost loved ones to gun violence.
Penteado, who also mentored the students as they painted the mural, takes the audience on an artistic journey beyond the barrel of a smoking gun throughout the film while exploring the tremendously weighty entanglements of the controversial issue of gun violence. Duda hopes America may be at a "turning point" in how gun violence is viewed.
Following the screening, Det. Santiago’s mother, Cathy McBride was part of a Q&A panel including Penteado, Lyons, Jersey City Board of Education Board Trustee, HCST Principal of KAS Prep High School and Director of Food Services, Jai Patel, National Youth Advisor at Everytown For Gun Safety, and Ms. Edie Peters Ligouri, President of the FBI Newark Citizens Academy Alumni Association. The Q&A session was moderated by Principal Krone, Supervisor Velazquez, and ELA/Humanities Instructor Ms. Justine Franco.
When asked by student Issac Rivas if Penteado had hopes to take his documentary and its message across the country. Penteado responded, “When it comes to the national platform, there’s still a lot to be done. So what we’re gonna do it create the first program, probably in the nation, that will be used in schools to talk about it and reflect about it. And eventually, those things will get picked up by other people. Big revolutions start small. You all became part of this today. If we do all of this and you guys don’t go out and say something then nothing will happen.”
Principal Krone then added, “You’re all graduating. Bring this with you to your high schools. We start here, small and we make the program a lot bigger when you use your leadership skills to bring this to principals and your peers.”
Jai Patel emphasized this by adding, “It is very easy to feel like ‘there’s nothing I can do’. But that is absolutely untrue. We vote people into office and it’s extremely important that they understand they can’t keep acting like we're just going to sit back. We’re going to replace them and vote in someone who understands us. Kids are dying in schools. You should be going to school and creating amazing things not worrying about your own safety.”
Mr. John Shinnick, HCST School Safety Specialist, attended the day’s events. “What a great program combining art, social media, and an informative documentary on the subject of gun violence. Hudson County Schools of Technology is proud and honored to help launch this wonderful initiative at Explore Middle School.”