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What's Left in the Conversation about Gun Violence

On Valentine’s day 2018, a mass shooting occurred in Parkland, Florida, at Mary Stoneman Douglas High School. Seventeen were killed and many more were injured. A 19-year-old former student was the perpetrator and confessed and was charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder and 17 attempted murders. On March 14th, thousands of high school and college students nationwide walked out in honor of those who lost their lives in Parkland and to press lawmakers to create more gun control policies. On March 24th, over 200,000 people filled the streets of Washington, D.C. alone. From D.C. to NYC to Philadelphia to NJ people of all backgrounds cried out along with David Bog and Emma Gonzales, #enoughisenough. But recently people have noticed that this issue has only gained national attention when the leaders were white. (Read about how black students from Parkland have been silenced here.) Even the students themselves have called this problem out and have worked to make their movement intersectional and include more voices of students of color. (Read about their work to become more inclusive, and how black/latinx students feel about working with the Parkland students here.)

I decided to ask Kent Place Student, India Berry, what she thought about this movement’s inclusivity, leadership, and impact. (To see my award-winning short film where I interview other teenage girls days after Parkland click here.)

G: Obviously the massive amounts of people who came out to participate in the March for Our Lives March as well as the work of the Parkland students had some impact. What do you think that impact was?

I: I went to the march in D.C. and it was crazy huge. It was as big as if not bigger than the women’s march in D.C. last year after the inauguration. And there were many sister marches around the nation and even the globe. The impact that has to be big. It’s just so big it can’t be ignored… you could hear throughout DC, if you were in the White House you could hear it. I feel like with our government today I’m not sure how much will change especially because no one has said anything about it other than acknowledging it. It will definitely make some change because of the size.

G: What do you feel has been left out of the general conversation surrounding gun violence?

I: I feel like the whole Black Lives Matter movement and police shootings are all relevant to gun violence. Although the Parkland students are trying to bring light to that as well, it is still not being talked about as much as the school shootings are, but they are both important.

G:Do you feel like protests such as the March For Our Lives protests and the Women’s marches are different than other protests? Do you feel like it’s become trendy?

India Berry at the March For Our Lives March in Washington, D.C

I: They definitely are different to other protests… from what I know the Black Lives Matter protests and other protests against more controversial issues sometimes are more violent not because of the protestors but because of the police or other outside forces. Just with the Women’s March and March For Our Lives Marches were either predominantly white protesters and/or had predominantly white leaders, I felt very safe at both of them, which probably contributes to their popularity. It’s interesting because black activists have already spoken up about gun issues before the March For Our Lives movement but now all of the sudden it’s trendy.

G: The Women’s March is interesting because the organizers were predominantly women of color yet the demographics of the march were predominantly white. Whereas the organizers of March for our lives were predominantly white yet the demographics were more diverse… How do you feel that the March For Our Lives protests directly compare to protests from the civil rights era or protests like the Dakota Access Pipeline Protests?

Police mace, use tear gas against, and spray protesters during a demonstration against the Dakota Access pipeline near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in Mandan, North Dakota, U.S.

I: I guess they relate in some way but the other marches were much more trendy than those less protected by law enforcement and had people violently attacking them. I honestly need to learn more about the history of protest but I already see a difference between them.

G: What do you want to be done about gun violence?

I: I really want regulations on guns. I think it’s ridiculous that you can go to Walmart and easily purchase a firearm. Obviously, the second amendment ensures there is no way to ban all guns; at least not all in one go, but we can put restrictions on military grade weapons that the public doesn’t need access to.

G: Okay last question, what have you done to support the movement the Parkland activists have created and what do you want to do in the future?

I: I attended the march and recently I’ve been posting on social media about March For Our Lives and gun violence in general because it’s been something I’ve been interested in for awhile, before I moved back to America from France. I think to myself a lot, this is ridiculous something needs to change. Going to the march and seeing the people next to me marching were my age made me more inspired to do something more and hopefully I want to start a group here that can talk about and act on issues regarding gun violence and regulation.

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