JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Hundreds came together Monday afternoon at The Jacksonville Landing to celebrate Jordan Davis Day on what would have been Davis' 20th birthday.
Davis (pictured) was 17-years-old when he was shot and killed in Jacksonville by Michael Dunn in 2012 after an argument over loud music. After two trials, Dunn was convicted in 2014 of first-degree murder, three counts of attempted murder and shooting into an occupied vehicle. He is serving a life sentence in a Florida prison.
Davis' relatives said they believe it's important to tell his story. The teen's father, Ron Davis, and mother, Lucia McBath, sat front row for the ceremony.
"When I started this journey 2½ years ago, I never thought all this would happen," Ron Davis said. "And the city of Jacksonville has embraced us as a family, has embraced Jordan, and it is just a wonderful time to give back and celebrate."
Several of Davis' family members came from across the country to be part of the day honoring him.
"Today is bittersweet. I did actually sing 'Happy birthday' to Jordan earlier this morning, and I cried a little bit as I sang that, because it is bittersweet that he's not here," McBath said. "He should be here enjoying his birthday, but I really believe that there are reasons for everything. And if God has allowed this to happen, it's for a greater purpose."?
Monday marked the third Jordan Davis Day celebration, but Ron Davis said it was the first one where he could celebrate without the concerns and worry of the trial for Dunn.
"I don't have to worry about Michael Dunn and what he has done to my son and whether he was convicted and whether he's going to prison and what the sentencing was going to be," Ron Davis said. "All of that is behind me, and now it is all a celebration. Now it's all about the music and about these kids out here."
He said the community support is encouraging.
"It makes me feel like we did something right," he said. "You know, when you start talking about unity, that's the key."
Musicians, politicians and anti-crime advocates from across the United States were in attendance.
"We lost a young man but now we use his legacy to save lives," Jacksonville Mayor Alvin Brown told the crowd. "It's a way of making sure that we remind people about what life is all about."
People who attended the celebration said it was a difficult day, but they hope the community coming together to talk about peace, acceptance and love will help make the city and the country a safer place for everyone.
Wayne Davis, the foreman of the jury that convicted Dunn of murder, said he felt compelled to stop by The Landing.
"I just wanted to show my respect and just wanted to be a part of honoring his memory, his passing," Wayne Davis said.
The mission for Jordan's family is far from over. That's why his parents say events like these are so important. It's not about race or religion; it's about right and wrong.
"He wanted everyone to live together freely," McBath said. "He wanted people to get along. And so this is all a part of that today."