I became an activist in the gun violence prevention (GVP) cause after the Sandy Hook shooting where 20 children and 6 caregivers were gunned down in their school. It was this mass shooting six years ago today that became my tipping point. It was their young lives that I said
So, I marched in Washington D.C. for Gun Control; planned a public art statement with Art Ammo on Boston Common; testified in front of a state senate panel for gun law reform; and helped build the MA chapter for Moms Demand Action. That all happened in 2013 and I kept going.
Fast forward to 2018, I began my activism work with teens who found their tipping point after the Parkland shooting. Others followed their lead, such as Dick’s Sporting Goods, Levi’s, Tom’s Shoes and 8 states passed red flag laws. It was a wave of optimism that reached its’ peak in the mid-term elections. Voter turnout among young people increased over 10% and because of breaking turnout, we are positioned to pass meaningful federal gun law reform in the 116th Congress.
Back to those teens –
After helping with plans and logistics for student-led town halls, walk-outs and a 50-mile multi-day protest march, my boss invites them to a national GVP conference. For a few students, it was their first flight on an airplane, never mind going to Washington D.C. with 300 other GVP advocates and activists. For me, coordinating pick ups at the airport; using LYFT for the first time; waiting up with them for a fried pickle Uber delivery at 11:20pm; and walking the halls of Congress was a bit exhausting, yet energizing at the same time.
And these young people just might be worth my time and energy because I still see hope in them. Here’s what some of them had to say about the D.C. conference:
During the GVP conference one of the biggest take-away I had was the power when multiple youth organizations band together to fight for a single goal instead of trying to combat the issue separately. ~Chinaly; Springfield
I came away from this conference equipped not only with new violence prevention knowledge and contacts at great organizations, but also a new perspective on how to center the work and voices of those most affected by gun violence. ~Sarah; Springfield
As someone living in a relative bubble, it’s important that I got to see different perspectives of gun violence, especially the effects of police violence. ~ Nate; Springfield
MA Student Activists meet the Giffords in D.C.
Sonya Yee Coleman is a Community Organizer for SHV and a Mom of Teens. Follow her on Twitter @sonyagracie