When I was a little girl, I walked a mile to school, partially through the woods, alone or with a friend. The doors to the school house were open and unguarded; people flowed freely in and out. My mind was on the fun I’d have on the playground, or the new book I’d be reading in English. After school I walked to a friend’s house, or choir practice, or came straight home, again alone or with a friend or two. Most importantly, from the time I left in the morning, to the time I returned home for supper, I felt totally safe. And it wasn’t just a feeling, it was a reality.
Today, safety is no longer a given in a student’s world. After the horrific events of Columbine, Sandy Hook and Parkland, a parent may kiss a child goodbye in the morning, uncertain as to seeing them alive again.
Well this past weekend, the young people rose up and proclaimed, “Never Again.”
On Saturday, March 24, 2018, a crowd of one million strong, under the leadership of our nation’s young people, took over Washington, DC in the March for Our Lives. Across America, people rallied in support. One by one, these young people ascended the podium proclaiming that the adults have failed them and affirming their own leadership. Coming of age in the next election, they declared, “We’ll use our vote to keep ourselves and our little brothers and sisters safe.”
For these kids, guns are clearly the threat to their safety. They are looking for more than partial solutions. To them, mental illness is not the issue: a mentally deranged person with a knife could never slaughter seventeen school children en masse. It only takes one rifle to bring home a week’s worth of venison for the family. It only takes one revolver to stop a home invader dead in his tracks. Assault weapons are designed for battle, and have no rightful place in the hands of a civilian. These seventeen and eighteen year-olds are demanding that these weapons of war be banned.
And they took it a step further, identifying with those who have lost their lives to wrongful gunfire at the hand of police, or street fights in urban America. As one girl put it, “A life lost on the streets of Chicago is as important as a life lost in Parkland.”
As I rejoiced at the courage and strength of the children on the march, my heart ached for the surviving kids at home. Many are forever traumatized, the newest victims of PTSD. My heart goes out to those children who must practice run-duck,-hide in their classrooms
For some of us, the march was reminiscent of the Civil Rights Movement. I was filled with gratitude as I thought back on the youth who put their lives on the line for racial justice, being attacked not by assault rifles, but by clubs, fire bombs, and police hoses.
It was fitting that on this day in 2018, Yolanda King, the nine year old granddaughter of Dr. Martin Luther King, stood before the crowd with confidence.
“I have a dream that enough is enough,
and that this should be a gun-free world.
As a Black woman, I swelled with pride to see my hero’s progeny take up the mantel for change. And at the same time, as I looked back at my nine year old self who had not a care in the world, I felt sad that such a little kid as Yolanda must be concerned with gun violence.
Many of us who are parents and grandparents have been fearful and dismayed regarding the world that our young people will inherit. Over the past year, our country has been in crisis with division across political, gender and racial lines. But these kids erased those lines and joined in unity and inclusiveness.
Most noteworthy was Emma Gonzalez. She called out the names of all seventeen dead Parkland children, then stood in silence for the duration of six minutes and twenty seconds to commemorate the agonizing time span of the Parkland massacre. Emma I salute you.
Listening to one young person after another articulate their legislative and voting call to action, I for one, have renewed hope for the America of my grandchildren’s future.