On Mother’s Day 2000, three-quarters of a million people marched to advocate for stricter gun control laws. The march took place after the now-historic Columbine High School shooting
Janet Fitch, a Milwaukee based director and community engagement specialist, set out to make a single documentary on the Million Mom March.“What surprised me the most was the impact of just being there,” says Fitch, owner of New Moon Productions. “I realized this isn’t about a few individuals, this is about America. You can’t tell all those stories in just one film.”
So that one film became a series called Guns, Grief and Grace in America. The concluding film, Changing the Conversation: America’s Gun Violence Epidemic, premiered at the Oriental Theatre in 2009. Now the series returns to Milwaukee on March 29, at the Frank Zeidler Center for Public Discussion.
It’s a relevant discussion in Milwaukee. Last year, there were 106 homicides in Milwaukee, 82 of those were gun related. The average ages of the victims were 27 and the suspect 25. In 2013, there were 532 nonfatal shootings.
Fitch says this longtime issue of gun violence is something everyone is aware of, yet no one seems to know how to stop it. “It’s so predictable,” she says. “People continually think oh this can’t happen to me but it can and if things don’t change it will!”
In her internationally acclaimed series, Fitch focuses on the epidemic of gun violence through homicides, suicides, domestic and mass shootings in urban, suburban, small town and rural areas. The series has been screened at prisons, schools, interfaith communities and convention centers.
The Frank Zeidler Center for Public Discussion and Guns, Grief, and Grace Documentary Project will host a three part discussion forum featuring Fitch’s documentary starting on March 29 from 7-9:30 p.m. at the Polish Falcon Hall. This is the first of a three-part series aimed at bringing people together through facilitated dialogue, to increase understanding and awareness on guns in our city, state and nation.
Senior facilitators from Frank Zeidler will oversee the presentations, question and answer sessions and discussion forums. “Our goal for these discussions is to build trust and to find better ways of talking about the complexities of guns in society,” says Katherine Wilson, executive director of the Frank Zeidler Center for Public Discussion. “This is not going to be a debate; we’d like to create an environment where everyone who attends can be heard and will listen to other’s stories and share their experiences.”
The heart and soul of the evening will focus on three storytellers, each presenting their personal experiences related to gun violence. Their topics will range from suicide prevention, gun violence and a hunting sustainability perspective.
The long-term goal over the course of these discussions is to strengthen our community and enforce change. With candor in her voice Fitch pauses and says: “Most of all, I just want people to become hopeful.”
For more information on the discussion series go to www.changegunviolence.com or www.zeidlercenter.org