A high school student from Orlando released a music video Wednesday to commemorate victims of the shooting at South Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School two years ago Friday.
In the three-minute video, titled Change, 17-year-old Yomar Fontanez wears a red Hollister hoodie and raps beneath stage lights about the lives lost at the Parkland school. “We can’t let nobody just end our lives like this,” he sings. "Fighting for this change and we’re never gonna quit.”
Fontanez wrote the song weeks after the Parkland shooting, said Nathan Smith, who is now his debate teacher at Cornerstone Charter Academy in Orange County. Smith, 33, started at the school the day of the shooting, meeting Fontanez in language arts class.
“He was just incredibly thoughtful" about the shooting, Smith recalled. “He felt like he needed to speak about it."
Fontanez soon brought some lyrics to Smith, who is a rapper himself and produces music videos with his students related to reading and writing. The teacher was “blown away by the depth” of his student’s words, he said, and helped him record and edit Change.
At one point in the song, Fontanez says he doesn’t blame school shootings on any one person or circumstance but on a “multitude of things that really need to change.” He says things have only worsened since the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut.
“School’s a place for learning, not for hurting,” he says. “I gotta bring a change to get these guns up out of schools."
Fontanez criticizes the FBI, accused of failing to fully investigate tips it had received beforehand about the Parkland shooter. “Ain’t the FBI supposed to be like our second set of eyes? But yet when something happen they can’t help with the warning signs."
He also calls out President Donald Trump for his stance on arming Florida teachers: “Trump being dumb, trying to give teachers guns. I swear sometimes I feel like they’re just making these laws for fun.”
The song also offers condolences to the parents of Parkland victims, saying it “could have easily been my mom or me.” Then Fontanez salutes the teachers who died trying to protect students that day.
“I don’t want to go to school worrying about my safety,” he sings. "But everything that’s happened, that’s just been the case lately.”
The video ends with a frame that reads, “Inspired and dedicated to those taken from us Feb. 14, 2018.”
Before releasing his video online, Fontanez showed it to his debate class Wednesday. His peers were overwhelmed by the message, said Smith, the teacher.
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Since Parkland, Florida kids have been forced to face the reality of violence on school campuses, he added, and they can identify with the stress Fontanez raps about in the song.
“It is an anthem for his generation,” Smith said. “He is that voice and he embodies that for the people around him by putting those feelings into words.”
Fontanez could not immediately be reached for comment.