March for All of Our Lives

by Zarai Travis-Batalla

(Photo source: Thomas Yang, visual editor of THEPITTNEWS, 2018)

With a 500k donation from Oprah, March for Our lives was one of the biggest youth protests since the Vietnam War. The outraged youth demanding change in gun legislation to reduce gun violence in the U.S, has caused a controversy. March for Our lives is seen by some as a hypocritical movement because black activists are portrayed as thugs and get ridiculed for also protesting for their lives.

   Opportunistic inequality is very apparent in this situation. With all respect and admiration for the fellow students taking action to make a change, the sudden national uproar over the #NEVERAGAIN movement led by students from the predominantly white, middle class, suburban neighborhoods of Parkland, FL, has a great juxtaposition on the attention shone to the Black Lives Matter movement. Both movements are ultimately fighting for the same cause: the right to live and to cease violence. With a crazy amount of celebrity support and endorsements for #NEVERAGAIN, including viral hashtags, and even global protests, it is proof of who is being heard and who is not. African Americans make up 13% of the US population. According to BBC News, “In 2016, more than 52% of murder victims (73% killed by guns) in America were black”. Black people are also 3 times more likely to die at the hands of law enforcement than any other race.

     As a united youth, we all want gun violence to end. This past Saturday in Los Angeles, Black Lives Matter youth stood alongside protesters for the Never Again march. A young activist, 14-year-old girl Thandiwe Abdullah broadcasted over the front of city hall, “it is important that when we talk about gun control, that we uplift the black bodies that continue to be gunned down in streets and targeted in our schools.”  11-year-old Naomi Wadler also expressed concerns for the inconspicuous gun violence that happens to African American women as well, at the Washington D.C. march stating “I represent the African American women who are victims of gun violence, who are simply statistics instead of vibrant, beautiful girls full of potential.”

   The leaders of the Never Again movement have called for all youth to be included. Jaclyn Corin, a survivor of the Parkland massacre said during her speech addressing her privilege,  “But we share this stage today and forever with those communities who have always stared down the barrel of a gun.” Corin intended to acknowledge the side of our youth that feels as if they are not being represented. Teens in Chicago feel the effects of severe gun violence every day. Damayanti Wallace, a junior at Chicago High School for the Arts discussed how gun violence infiltrated her community, “You’re talking about it in class, or you’re talking about it in the hallway, or somebody’s, like, crying in the hallway because something happened last night.” This is normal for Chicago teens that experience high gun violence in their communities.

   Truth be told, post-racial America is a myth. Black children grow up criminalized. People, most importantly cops, view black children to be less innocent than white kids. In 2012, data concluded by the Department of Education shows black students were to feel the strongest repercussions of discipline over any other race in schools.

    On March 18th, Stephon Clark a father of two was fatally shot 20 times in his grandparent’s backyard in Sacramento, California by police when his phone was mistaken for a gun. Another name becomes another hashtag. Clark’s brother expressed his frustration in wanting justice for his brother’s murder when he interrupted a Sacramento city council meeting,

      “Now the mayor wants to talk to me. The chief of police got my brother killed. He doesn’t care. He shows no emotion at all. And y’all get mad at me for not crying on the news.”  -Stevante Clark, Stephon Clark’s brother.

      

A poster made by a child for the March.

   Those who advocate for Black Lives Matter have been protesting for gun reform for years before the #NEVERAGAIN movement. The protesters for Black Lives Matter in efforts of trying to broadcast their message of ending the violence on the black community as a result of systematic racism, are met with police fury and are once again disregarded. In contrast, the students from Parkland exercise their privilege and are face-to-face with lawmakers in a week. The universal message that these causes are trying to vocalize is that “our lives matter.” We all deserve the chance to live. We are the generation to bring about change, but in order to effectively do so, we must not overlook any aspect of gun violence. Gun violence towards black people cannot continue to be a prevailing characteristic of American society, in the same way, that school shootings cannot.  Unification will be the driving force behind the change that we need to see within and for our generation.

 

“The key to this issue is solidarity. We have to show up for one another and one another issues. Don’t only show up when it affects you. Recognize that gun violence affected Alton Sterling and Stephon Clark, just like it did the young people in Parkland and Sandy Hook,”

Brittany Packnett, an activist for the Intersection of Culture and Justice Movement