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March for Our Lives highlights the voices of youth impacted by gun violence

The Institute for Educational Leadership participated in March for Our Lives, a march against gun-violence in Washington D.C. The march, organized and lead by youth, brought to light the issues and policies regarding gun-violence while accentuating equity. The survivors of Stoneman Douglas High School along with students from across the country emphasized that victims of mass shootings are not the only victims of gun violence. The Parkland students shared their platform with students of other backgrounds who stand in unity against gun violence but haven’t had such a platform to advocate.

Jaclyn Corn, a Parkland shooting survivor, stated in her speech, "We recognize that Parkland received more attention because of its affluence. But we share this stage today and forever with those communities who have always stared down the barrel of a gun."

Jaclyn invited Yolanda Renee King, the granddaughter of Martin Luther King Jr. At just 9-years old, she bravely spoke about her grandfather’s dream of equality and her dream of a gun-free world.

The march was a milestone for these two revolutionary dreams as students of color shared their stories about how gun violence affected their lives.

D’angelo McDade stated, "As I stand here before you, I stand as D’Angelo McDade, an 18-year-old from the West Side of Chicago. I, too, am a victim, a survivor and a victor of gun violence. I come from a place where minorities are controlled by both violence and poverty… but today we say ‘No More!’"

Naomi Waddler, a 11-year-old student from Virginia stated, "I am here today to acknowledge and represent the African-American girls whose stories don’t make the front page of every national newspaper."

Equity was surely at the forefront of the march in every aspect. Edna Chavez, a Latin American student from South LA gave an emotional speech about her brother who died from a shooting. She told the crowd that it was common to hear gun sounds on a daily basis in the community that she lived in. She said, "This is normal, normal to the point that I learned how to duck from bullets before I learned how to read." She continued her speech by talking about the mental trauma that victims and families of gun shootings have to face. She stated, "[I] lost myself to that trauma and that anxiety. If the bullet did not kill me, that anxiety and trauma will."

Edna pointed out key issues that communities affected by gun violence have to deal with on a daily basis. She demanded the government fund mentorship programs and mental health resources.

There are millions of youth who live in communities similar to Edna’s. They, along with others who do not have access to these resources, are at a detrimental disadvantage. Edna says, "I carry that trauma everywhere I go… And, I am not alone in this experience." It’s important that we address these issues so that students like Edna don’t continue to struggle. The youth has spoken and demands for sensible gun laws such as universal, comprehensive background checks and bans on assault weapons. We must stand with the youth and continue to fight against gun violence and establish resources that help victims and survivors with their trauma.

Written by: Soo-Min Hong (Angela), Communications Intern, Coalition for Community Schools 



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