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March 26, 2018

‘We were there. We were making history.’ Students reflect on the March For Our Lives

Adia Johnson (right), 15, asked this mother-daughter pair to take a picture with her at the March For Our Lives in Washington D.C. Photo by Adia’s mother, Jamaa Hill

I plan to volunteer and stay active for my people: youth of all races

by Adia Johnson, 10th grade, Northwest High School, Maryland

As a voter registration volunteer, it made me more aware that change will not come without voices–voices in the form of votes. I plan to volunteer and stay active for my people: youth of all races.

Before the March, I knew voting was important. I volunteered with the Montgomery County Board of Elections during the 2012 presidential election between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. But at that time I had a completely different reason why voting was important. I volunteered because it was important to me to have a person of color–my color–elected. The moment was historical.

Adia Johnson of Gaithersburg, Maryland, volunteered to register people to vote at the March For Our Lives in Washington D.C. Photo by Jamaa Hill

Moving forward, years have passed and there is a new face in the White House. A new, more important reason to spend my time volunteering. This time, I am volunteering to encourage voting for an immediate change. My mother encourages me to watch the news and to stay on top of current happenings. We seem to discuss gun violence in the news more and more. There’s a crisis going on. A war right here in the United States.

As a 15-year old student, I was faced with an example of that crisis, one that left me in shock. A student threatened my high school through an online posting. My school was dismissed early. Chaos erupted as it was just days after the Stoneman Douglas High School. I feared for my life.

The scene impacted me and brought me closer to the cries of many others who have faced gun violence. Gun violence hits a high each day that is unimaginable in other parts of the world: 96 gun deaths a day. The loss of life in the inner-cities of Chicago (2017 – 650 killed by guns) and Baltimore, Maryland (2017 – 343 killed by guns) and New Orleans and beyond cannot be ignored any longer.

In order to change those statistics, laws must be changed by those who support gun reform. So while there were many volunteer opportunities at the March to For Our Lives, voting stood out as the most important. My goal was to target young faces who reside in states that permit 16-year olds to pre-register and to be contacted for the 2020 elections. But I was careful not to pass anyone of any age without asking if they were registered or pre-registered.

It did not take much effort to gain the youth interest in voter registration. We know the importance of this revolution and without voting – change will not come.

Adia Johnson, a sophomore at Northwestern High School in Maryland, attends the March For Our Lives. Photo by Jamaa Hill

On Saturday, people from all backgrounds came together. My wish is for people to walk away with the same love they experienced at the march and use this love in their everyday lives. We must continue to join forces as one without color lines. We need to stay united and stay as one: all people, all races, all ages, all religions.

This march taught me that it takes a nation to stand together to make change. The youth are the future, and with bullets killing young people, there is no future.

This generation of young people will be the largest generation of Americans eligible to vote in the next election. I will continue my voter registration volunteer efforts from now forward.

 

READ: How teens want to solve America’s school shooting problem

 

Caitlin Glastonbury, 17, at the March For Our Lives in Washington D.C. on March 24, 2018. Painting by Webster Schroeder High School student Lexi Garnar. Photo by Grace Piscani

We were there. We were making history.

by Caitlin Glastonbury, 12th grade, Webster Schroeder High School, Webster, New York

One month ago, I was one of six friends with a dream to march in Washington D.C. against gun violence and for stricter legislation.

Two days ago, I was one of 50 students boarding a bus to drive through the night to our capital.

A busload of 51 students from Webster, NY, near Rochester, traveled to the March For Our Lives. Photo by Stephen Fornof

When we arrived, we were surrounded by support. Random people shook our hands on the street. Passing cars honked their horns. We sang “Imagine” by John Lennon with a kind man with a guitar.

Yesterday, I was one of hundreds of thousands of students who rallied across the country at the March For Our Lives. On the streets of Washington D.C., we stood in awe, hearing speeches by students from Parkland who witnessed their school’s tragedy firsthand.

We listened as people of color from Chicago, California and Washington were given the platform to speak that they deserved years ago. We sang along with performers, from Lin Manuel-Miranda to Miley Cyrus. We repeated a chant lead by Yolanda Renee King, the nine-year old granddaughter of Martin Luther King Jr., who is continuing the fight for his dream.

Webster Schroeder High School student Hannah DeChalais at the March For Our Lives. Photo by Grace Piscani

I feel so proud and honored to have been there.

When I see satellite images of the entire crowd, I can find my friend Luke’s orange baseball cap.

I can see my friend’s signs featuring art by a local teacher, Todd Stahl.

We were there. We were making history.

Today, I am one of 327.4 million people looking forward to the future of the United States.

 

 

READ: These students carried stories of gun violence to the March for Our Lives

 

James van Kuilenburg, 17, from Frederick, Maryland, makes a sign ahead of the March For Our Lives in Washington D.C.

I was thrilled to see so many young people but struck by the near silence on trans lives

by James van Kuilenburg, 17, Governor Thomas Johnson High School, Frederick, Maryland

As I joined my friends on the streets of D.C, only a 30-minute drive from my town of Frederick, Maryland, I felt slightly out of place. In my community, I am a transgender youth activist and organizer, and am acutely aware of the intersections of gun violence and LGBTQ+ liberation. Trans youth are a community with some of the highest rates of suicide, while trans people as a whole experience a disproportionate amount of violence.

When I marched on Saturday, I felt as though trans narratives were not reflected well enough. Though many of the student leaders involved in the March were LGBTQ+, I was struck by the near silence on trans lives.

James van Kuilenburg (left) at the March For Our Lives in Washington D.C.

It felt disingenuous to march in D.C, where only two years ago, Deeniquia Dodds was shot in the neck on the Fourth of July. Or when just a year ago, a D.C man who fatally stabbed JaParker Deoni Jones, was found not guilty. I cannot fully participate in any movement to call for gun control when we are leaving out those most disproportionally affected — namely transgender people of color.

I am so grateful for the moving speeches of student speakers, especially those of Edna Chavez, Naomi Wadler and Trevon Bosley, as they all represented the important direction our call for gun control should be going in.

Coming away from the event, I’m thrilled so many young people showed up and spoke out, and I feel strongly about how we should improve in the future.

We must hold ourselves accountable, ask what voices we are choosing to uplift, and question how the reforms we are asking for will impact marginalized communities.

We still have some work to do.

 

READ: ‘We see gun violence and gun wars all the time’ — Why young immigrants joined the March for Our Lives

 

Manoli Figetakis and his classmates from Queens, New York, took a bus to Washington D.C. for the March For Our Lives. Manoli covered the march for his school newspaper.

As a student journalist, my words come through the eyes of my camera

by Manoli Figetakis, 11th grade, Francis Lewis High School, Queens, New York

A group of students from my school chartered a bus to Washington D.C. to join people from across the country in the fight to end gun violence. We created banners and posters with signatures from the student body who took part in the walk out on March 14, 2018. We then took that same banner to Washington and marched with it.

As a student reporter, I prepared my cameras and equipment along with interview questions to take with me. My words come through the eyes of my camera. On Saturday, my dad took me to the bus station in New York City where I was about to take on a job as a student journalist. I was proud, nervous and anxious all at the same time. I couldn’t believe that in four short hours, I would be standing in front of the U.S Capitol with more than 200,000 people capturing the moment on film.

At the rally, I interviewed people who were standing around me and took photos and video. I was the only reporter from my school and had to report back for our newspaper. On the bus ride home, I felt empowered, because the words of the guest speakers proved that we have a voice to make a change.

I see a world where young people can stand up and make a difference. I see a nation where we will register to vote, and, when politicians oppose us, we will vote them out. I see a community where we will no longer have to fear that our lives could be taken by a person with a gun created to kill. I see change.

 

READ: ‘March For Our Lives’ offers valuable civics’ lesson: Don’t be afraid of your government

 

Students from Royal Oak High School, in Royal Oak, Michigan, took a bus to Washington D.C. for the March For Our Lives.

The march isn’t meant to change us. 2It’s meant to change the gun laws in our country.

by Jonah Kubicek, 11th grade, Royal Oak High School, Royal Oak, Michigan

Many people have asked if traveling to D.C. to join other students to demand common sense gun reform will change me. After only one hour on the bus, surrounded by like-minded people, I know that none of us will be different when we return home.

The march will only solidify our character and our beliefs. The march isn’t meant to change us. It’s meant to change the minds of the millions who oppose us. It’s meant to change the gun laws in our country. It’s meant to change both the mind and hearts of our lawmakers all over the nation. And if they won’t change, they won’t be in office much longer. It’s meant to educate people about the power of the NRA, but also to show just how powerful my generation can be.

Jonah Kubicek, Royal Oak, Michigan at the March For Our Lives in Washington D.C.

As I sit on the bus, in silence, trying to go to sleep, I can’t help but overhear the chatter of the people sitting around me. We all want the same thing. We want to be able to go to school and feel safe. In a few years, we want to be able to send our kids to school, and not fear for their lives. And that, of course, is not unreasonable.

At the risk of sounding stubborn, no matter what comes from the march, our minds won’t be changed. We know that we are on the side of reason, and with that comes the responsibility to change other people’s view on guns, not ourselves. We have and will continue to hold ourselves to the highest standard of integrity, higher than that of our current leaders.

 

 

 

 

 


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