Bibiana Cervantes, an artist of Colombian origin, has been working alongside high school students after the shooting that hit a high school in Parkland, Florida a year ago.

February 14, 2019 will not be a Valentine's Day like the others for the people of Miami and its region. While elsewhere in America will flirt, in the cinema or restaurant, Florida, she will have a heart pinched: a year ago, a former high school student opened fire in his old school, making 17 victims in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, near Miami. A tragedy that the "Sunshine State" has not forgotten, despite the sordid trivialization of indiscriminate shootings in the country.

Bibiana Cervantes did not have the misfortune to have to wear mourning. It lives about 40 kilometers southeast of Parkland, in this flat metropolitan area that stretches between Atlantic and Everglades and squares the highways. His three children, too big or too small to attend a high school, were safe. Their lives can go on.

A shock wave across Florida

But the shock wave of the Parkland earthquake was felt right up to his studio. "I could not shut up. I needed to express myself, especially seeing these images of teenagers coming out of school with their hands up. "explains this painter. This scene has become sadly familiar to Americans: it accompanies every mass killing, whether it occurs in a school, a mall, or a church. Under the gaze of the police, those who are still alive leave the scene of the drama in a row in pairs and arms in the air. The instruction is strict, to avoid any confusion between executioners and survivors.

"But those hands raised to the sky, it is also those of high school students who demonstrate and ask the floor to demand measures against weapons"says Bibiana Cervantes immediately. Driven by anger, fear and tears, the Parkland teens rallied to demand that adults do their jobs. Steps have been organized in Florida and across the United States to call politicians to finally tackle the problem, and seriously. And to remind you of the obvious: weapons of war have nothing to do in a country at peace.

Determined, "Parkland generation" on the way to Washington

Protest, art in the fist

From the beginning, Bibiana Cervantes accompanied this movement, Art in the Fist. "Parkland has touched me so much, so much, Does loose. I made a painting, with collages of newspapers the next day. " They are hands she painted, colorful hands, living hands. Accompany them in black and white, excerpts from the newspapers of February 15, 2018, photos of the victims, calls to the White House to act against this madness.

Exhibitions were also organized in a gallery in Fort Lauderdale and then in a convention center. But this painting was not intended, or not only, to end hanging on a wall: Bibiana Cervantes walked with him. "The idea was to participate in demonstrations, to protest, with our works"she explains. Thus was born the collective "Art is our Weapon" ("art is our weapon"), launched with other artists of the region.

Caught up by violence, far from her native Colombia

Born in Colombia in 1970, Bibiana Cervantes, whose parents fled the violence that hit the South American country hard, did not think she would ever be caught up in the noise of arms. "In the United States, no one is immune today, She laments. It is really urgent to act. I hope the Parkland tragedy can change the game. I believe it. "

After studying journalism, in Colombia and then in the United States, and working for a television channel, she made the choice, ten years ago, to devote herself to art. But the news, it seems, persists. As in 1985, when his native village of Armero had almost been wiped off the map by the eruption of the Nevado del Ruiz volcano. The images of a young girl caught in the debris, for several days, had traveled around the world.

But if Bibiana is optimistic, if she believes that the mobilization of young people will not weaken and that it will bear fruit, it is also that she knows the operation of her adopted country. She is not unaware that Parkland is a wealthy city. The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School football field is equipped with lighting and the villas that follow each other on both sides of the pathway look like cottages. In the United States – as elsewhere, but probably a little more than elsewhere – this status confers power. On February 5, three parents and a high school student were invited to attend the Congress to attend Donald Trump's State of the Union address.

In the United States, Democrats expected on gun control

The inspiration of Bibiana Cervantes

A dream, animate workshops for children

Bibiana Cervantes loves the life of an artist: to be immersed in her visions and canvases; to attend other painters, sculptors, poets; lead joint projects … "It's a life I enjoy every moment, She smiled. My old life, in the media, is definitely behind me. " In front of her, a goal is particularly close to her heart, that of animating workshops for the youngest, in the tough neighborhoods of Miami and its surroundings. " This is my dream. Through art, we can get so much going. I would like to teach young people from marginal communities to express themselves through drawing. " For mutual benefit.

Gilles Biassette, our special correspondent in Miami