Let Us Listen To All Of Our Young People’s Cries For Help To End Gun Violence

21 Feb

photo credit: IBTimes UK

While this nation mourns the losses of the lives of the seventeen students and teachers who were killed by a former student with an AR-15 assault rifle on Valentines Day at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, the nation is also inspired by the student survivors who are speaking out and taking action.

I am inspired by their passion, conviction, and ability to rise up after the devastation and trauma they experienced just last week. These brilliant young people have had enough, and are calling on the adults to keep them safe so that what happened at Parkland never happens again. And, yes, it is a pity that the adults who possess the political power to create better gun control laws, and to ban assault rifles, have thus far done nothing to heed the calls for change–not after Columbine, 19 years ago, not after Virginia Tech, not after Sandy Hook,  not after the Florida night club, not after Las Vegas, and not after Parkland.

Through tweets to the President, and videos gone viral, our young people know how to use social media to mobilize, and to gain widespread attention. The young students at Parkland, out of self-proclaimed necessity, have become overnight anti-gun violence activists. Student Emma Gonzalez’s 10-minute brave and direct speech, has been seen by over 1 million people. Reporters and journalists are contacting and following the students’ activities, which include a planned National March Against Gun Violence in Washington D.C. on March 24th. Here is Emma’s inspirational speech, if you have not yet seen it:

CNN, Florida Student To NRA And Trump: ‘We Call BS’, www.youtube.com, 2/17/18, Emma Gonzalez – 1,170,653 views

There are also young voices that came before these Florida student voices. There are voices of young people who have also risen up over the injustice of senseless killings due to gun violence, and police brutality. There have been Black and Brown young, overnight and over-the-long-haul, youth activists in Baltimore, Ferguson, New York City, and beyond who have risen up after every police shooting of an unarmed Black man, woman, teenager, or child, and who speak on behalf of gun violence in their communities. Their voices have not gone viral like the faces of the mostly white students we are compelled to follow in Florida.

Let’s lift up every voice and give attention to all the cries of all of our youth who want to make the neighborhoods they live in safe. Who want to be able to go to school and return home at the end of the day. Who want to be able to enjoy a celebration while sitting on the stoop of their home without being killed, either accidentally, or intentionally, during a drive-by shooting. Who want to be seen as human beings deserving of our country’s attention and care, instead of looked at as thugs as Braxton Begley says in the following teen group interview conducted after the death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore. Begley speaks about how instead of portraying the positive things that take place with youth who spend time in community centers, and doing positive things in their city, they only portray the negative, like the riots that broke out after Freddie Gray’s funeral. Begley quoted Dr. King who said, “Riots are the language of the unheard,” and how he believes that that is true, because “if we could get justice, if people cared, this wouldn’t happen. This is what people do to get attention.” Student, Lewis Dixon added, “we are greater than what is being shown about Baltimore. Dixon, earlier in the interview, lamented how he and his friends shouldn’t have to worry about their safety in their encounters with police, while Kimberly Ben worried that once the media coverage was gone, she and her community would be forgotten for the next cause.

CNN Interview, Teens Talk About The Death Of Freddie Gray, www.youtube.com, 5/2/15, featuring Baltimore High School Students, Zion Shaw, Darius Craig, Rickey Goodwin, Lewis Dixon, Kimberly Ben, Braxton Bagley – 1,858 views



Follow Shane Flowers here in this TIME video made during the Ferguson, Missouri protests after the police shooting of teenager, Michael Brown. Shane, 14, asks, “He was getting ready to go to college…I’m 14..What if that was me fixing to go to college? And I’m the only person in my family..and then I die…What if I died right before I was getting ready to go to college? 18…that’s too young to die…”  Even more poignant, were the words of Shane’s friend as they waled together into the night to join other protesters along the side of a highway. “…this is how we are going to unite..every body showing love here..what’s so crazy though, is that nobody heard about it until we started doing this. It was on BET, on CNN, when this started happening. They weren’t worrying about the Michael Browns then..they had bigger and better things to worry about than people breaking into stores..I understand it’s wrong, but if the law didn’t sit there and shoot this man, we wouldn’t have gone through none of this..the stores wouldn’t have been broken into…this wouldn’t have been burned down..” His plea, like Kimberly Ben’s in Baltimore, was for America to care enough about these young people’s lives to do something about it.

TIME video, Am I Next:Ferguson’s Protests Through The Eyes Of A Teenager, www.youtube.com, 8/14/14, featuring Shane Flowers, 14 –  390, 000 views


In this third video from a four-part Town Hall discussion, Baltimore high school students talk about the struggles to envision a better Baltimore. One young man expresses, “…the reason we’re so disconnected..it’s a war for survival for people, for poor people…it’s hard to focus on anything else when you are trying to figure out how you’re gonna eat or live the next day..it’s sad, it’s depressing..sometimes you just numb yourself to get by…and so it’s hard to think long-term goals, like doing the work done during the civil rights movement..” One young woman related, “after the leaders of the civil rights leaders were assassinated, there was no passing of the torch to the next generation..we need to cultivate new leaders, and us young people need to receive training on how to develop as leaders…”  I’d say that was spoken like a true leader. You’ll find much more wisdom in this interview. It’s 20 minutes in length, but definitely worth the listen.

theRealnews.com, Baltimore Youth Speak About How To Reduce Violence, www.youtube.com, 9/30/14, featuring Baltimore high school students – 1,251 views


Finally, here in Providence, Rhode Island residents have cried out for some time for an end to gun violence. In this video, community members of all ages, including activist and current mayoral candidate, Kobi Dennis, and Executive Director of the non-profit organization, Higher Ground International, Henrietta White-Holder, call for peace.

WPRI, Providence Peace Rally, www.youtube.com, 7/1/13 – 43 views


I have great faith in our young people. All of them. And, like all of you, want them to feel safe, be safe, and have the freedom to flourish, and make the world the better place that we all are so desperately seeking.

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