A video campaign titled Sympathy Cards, initially released in 2018, is going viral again.
The chilling video depicts, via hidden cameras, shoppers walking by or browsing the greeting cards section at a shop. Shocked, confused, some visibly upset, shoppers freeze when they notice that, along with the traditional selection of greeting cards, is a section devoted to school shootings.
The solemn black-and-white cards feature large, bold words, which repeat words including “I’m sorry,” and “Sympathy” several times.
Smaller messages of sympathy are written between these words or inside the cards. They include: “I’m sorry your kid got shot at school today,” “I’m sorry your kid was gunned down in gym class,” “Condolences on the shooting of your teacher,” “Sympathy on the shooting of your classmates,” and “Sorry for your terrifying loss.”
Non-profit, gun safety organisation Change The Ref (CTR) is behind the powerful video that has now had more than 1.3 million views on TikTok since it was posted on the platform five days ago.
The Parkland, Florida, non-profit organisation aims to use urban art to raise awareness on mass shootings in America. The group was founded by Manuel and Patricia Oliver after the tragic loss of their son Joaquin, who was one of the 17 students killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on February 14, 2018.
CTR’s goal is to reach out to the public and strengthen the voice of a generation of survivors and victims of school shooting for a more peaceful future. Some of their other initiatives include Walls of Demand, a nationwide art project where murals with powerful images are created to force people to think about gun violence.
More recently, there was another campaign called The NRA’s Children’s Museum.
CTR organised for a fleet of 52 empty yellow school busses to drive to the home and office of senator Ted Cruz where they formed the shape of a rifle. The procession of buses had 4,368 empty bus seats to represent the number of children who had died because of gun violence in the US since 2020. The belongings of each school shooting victim were placed on each seat in the bus.
Urban art is a powerful way to bring attention to imperative social issues. The art form encompasses many mediums and techniques including graffiti, public sculptures, poster art, sticker art, 3D wall graffiti, murals, sidewalk chalk art or more performative pieces that involve public interaction, such as Sympathy Cards. These are usually recorded and uploaded online with the hopes of going viral.
Urban art has continued to be a platform in recent times for reflection, collaboration and a means in which to build a community around social issues.
Invisible Homeless by Luke Jerram in 2015 addressed the ongoing issue of the homeless population in the UK in a profound way. Jerram created a glass sculpture of a sleeping body resting on cardboard in the middle of Bristol for the public to see.
New York artist Tatyana Fazlalizadeh’s Stop Telling Women to Smile series in 2012, consisted of simply drawn portraits pasted on the streets of the city. The series was created to address the harassment that women faced by the roads everyday. Each of the drawings by Fazlalizadeh was accompanied with a quote by the sitter that spoke of her experience with street harassment.
One of the most recognised urban art pieces is Laundromat by famed Chinese artist Ai Weiwei in 2016. Weiwei strapped 14,000 used life jackets previously worn by refugees traveling from Turkey to the Greek island of Lesbos, to the pillars of the Konzerthaus concert hall in Berlin. It was a bold installation that made international headlines.
CTR’s Sympathy Cards ends with a very sombre message, “Mass Sympathy Cards. Coming Soon. If we do nothing.”
While the video was released in 2018, the unfortunate fact is the message behind the video is still very relevant today. There have been 119 school shootings since 2018, 27 of those having occurred in 2022 alone.