In addition to Jusu, five other artists from Trenton will contribute to the project including recording artist Umar “BIG OOH!” Alim, singer/songwriter Hana Sabree, poet Terra Applegate, and videographer Diego Gordon. Jennet Jusu, Bentrice’s sister, will incorporate dance.
“No matter what the paper says, no matter how you perceive people, no matter the stories you hear [from a] third person whatever the case may be, it’s somebody that loved the person. It’s somebody that was affected by the death. It’s somebody that misses that person,” said Alim during a virtual panel at this year’s Art All Night festival in Trenton.
Alim added that the project will prevent people from forgetting those lost to violence.
“I feel like this is a platform to keep their name alive and talk to the family to get perspective on the story,” he told the panel.
Mental health is also at the forefront of the project. In addition to learning about people lost to violence, the app will connect users to mental health resources in the city.
Natasha Shabazz, community engagement director from the Trenton Health Team is involved, along with Michele Madiou, Mercer County’s mental health administrator, and Kimmie Carlos with Motivational Consulting, to make sure the artists were prepared and had adequate support before talking to families.
“When you’re sitting in front of somebody that has been truly affected by gun violence or violence in our community, it’s not just a conversation,” she said.
The app and the art pieces are still in development and there is no timeline for when it will launch. Jusu said she is going to give the project “the respect that it needs” to allow families to be active participants.
“I am very grateful and honored that they want to be part of this, that they are brave enough to take part in this,” she said, adding she “can’t begin to imagine the level of difficulty” in opening up on a personal level.