Two years ago, a bullet robbed De’Janae Gilliam of her ability to walk. But when students around the nation take to the streets for the March For Our Lives, Gilliam is making sure she’s there with them.
With the help of her former art teacher Kate DeCiccio, Gilliam has transformed her traumatic experience into a poster, one in a series that will be distributed to students for the weekend event.
“Help me save lives,” it says. “Gun violence almost took mine.”
“It’s one thing to create a visual with powerful words to reach the people, but it’s also one thing to be featured in the poster telling your story visually,” Gilliam told CNN. “I wanted people to actually see what gun violence has done to my family and I.”
The posters were curated by Amplifier, a design lab based in Seattle that fuses art and activism. The organization is giving away over 40,000 posters nationwide for participants to carry as they march for stricter gun legislation.
“While the battle for gun reform has been going on for years, especially within black and brown communities most affected by gun violence, we have never seen this level of national energy around gun reform,” Program Director Cleo Barnett told CNN. “We knew that this was the moment for real change and we wanted to support the people on the ground pushing for policy change.”
Amplifier has designated seven cities around the country where protesters can pick up posters. They are also free to download on their website.
All of the artwork focus on the experiences of young people who have been negatively impacted by firearms, like Gilliam.
On November 30, 2015, she was hit by a stray bullet while at a gas station near her apartment in Charlotte, North Carolina. Gilliam was in the process of transferring to the University of North Carolina at Charlotte to pursue a degree in pediatrics at the time. Her injury forced her to halt her studies, she said.
Many of the designs were submitted by students themselves during an open call held by Amplifier in early March.
DeCiccio believes that conveying these messages from a subjective point-of-view allows people to empathize more than they would from reading statistics.
One piece pays tribute to the black youth movements that began protesting shootings years ago.
Another was donated by iconic street artist Shepard Fairey, founder of OBEY Clothing and creator of Barack Obama’s “Hope” poster.
Fairey’s Los Angeles gallery, Subliminal Projects, is one of the many locations where people can pick up prints in person.