Father of Parkland victim creates heartbreaking tribute to son
Over the weekend, Manuel Oliver grabbed a can of black paint and created a powerful tribute to his son — and Parkland shooting victim — Joaquin. The father drew a portrait of his 17-year-old son alongside the words: “We Demand Change.” A video of him creating the mural has since gone viral and serves as yet another reminder that we need sweeping gun control legislation immediately.
Oliver’s artwork was part of “Parkland 17,” a Miami-based exhibit that paid tribute to the lives lost during the tragic Florida shooting. The event, organized by Miami Heat basketball player Dwayne Wade, also served as a grassroots call-to-action, offering up phone booths for visitors to contact their representatives about gun control.
In the center of it all was Oliver and his sweeping, heartbreaking mural of the son he so recently lost.
Joaquin’s dad painting. pic.twitter.com/kgGcELFwAy
— lex (@witchyactivist) March 11, 2018
Members of the school’s community were asked to sign Oliver’s finished work and many, according to student Lex Michael, offered up messages of hope, promise, and solidarity.
The finished project, with all our names signed on it, including his (which made me cry lol) pic.twitter.com/YvrSaIU5dn— lex (@witchyactivist) March 11, 2018
Most of us wrote on the wall “we promise to keep fighting for you” or something a long the lines of that.— lex (@witchyactivist) March 11, 2018
The collective internet could barely hold it together after watching the footage.
You can feel his pain and anger with every stroke. This is heartbreakingly powerful. #NeverAgain— Aly 🍒 (@oopsitsaly) March 11, 2018
I can't even fathom the grief these parents are experiencing. This video brought me to tears.— Mother of Chihuahuas (@ElleMcPoopson) March 11, 2018
Guys, I am not even American ( I am from Greece), and watching this I cried. Keep fighting for gun control, for common sense, compassion, safety, a better tomorrow.— Nikos (@nikostheater) March 11, 2018
Oh God, my heart breaks for him. Oh my God.— Rebecca! (@Reblawrence12) March 11, 2018
Michael later told CNN that Oliver’s painting process was silent and deliberate. “He didn’t say anything, he was just breathing heavily while painting. He was very focused,” she recalled. “It’s not shown in the video but Oliver also took a hammer and created holes in the wall and put flowers in them.”
This is just the first step in Oliver’s plan to enact legislative change. He told The New York Times that he has refashioned himself as a “graphic activist” and plans to keep fighting alongside Parkland students.
“Now I have a new role and I’m going to play that role until the end,” he said “The role is to support the agenda of the kids who are demanding answers to what’s going on.”
In the meantime, “Parkland 17” exhibit will stay open longer than initially expected, and leave room for other families to display tributes to their lost loved ones.
“We might add to it for this weekend,” Calyann Barnett, the show’s curator, said. “Some other family members might want to hang something. Maybe they had kids who were going to college and the parents may want to hang the school colors, that sort of thing. The parents could bring their acceptance letters or anything they want to share.”
So, so much applause for Oliver and the rest of the grieving parents and students who are fighting so fiercely and admirably for change.