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How a mural is uniting a Bronx community after a 15-year-old’s murder

This month marks one year since the death of Lesandro “Junior” Guzman-Feliz, a 15-year-old from the Bronx who was killed by gang violence in a case of mistaken identity.

News of the teen’s death spread quickly on social channels after surveillance videos of the attack circulated online. Artist George Fernandez saw the trending hashtag #justiceforjunior on Instagram, which collected photos and videos that captured the community’s grief over Junior’s death. Seeing the messages, Fernandez immediately traveled to New York to create a mural honoring Junior’s life. Fernandez received permission from Junior’s mother, Leandra Feliz, the building owner, and the Bronx borough president to paint the mural on the side of the bodega where Junior was attacked.

“The mural has helped the community remind us that what happened to Junior doesn’t have to happen to anyone else,” said Edilberto Tantau, the property building manager. “We worked together, and this mural is beautiful.”

The Bronx community has organized around Junior’s death, holding rallies and fundraising for the family. In February, the city renamed Bathgate Avenue “Lesandro ‘Junior’ Guzman-Feliz Way.” The trial for five of the 14 suspects charged with first-degree murder began in early May. This week, a jury found this initial group of suspects all guilty in Junior’s death, nearly a year after the teen died. News of the trial is shared on social media through #justiceforjunior.

PBS NewsHour Student Reporting Labs produced this story as part of a special project with Instagram to highlight youth-driven community stories about public art. Students from Bronx Arena High School pitched this story and assisted with production. You can also find this story on the NewsHour’s IGTV.

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