I was hopeful that change would happen after Sandy Hook. I remember the disbelief I felt the day President Obama spoke about the legislative defeat when Congress failed to pass a gun control bill that included a ban on military assault rifles and expanded background checks. It seemed unreal that the Founding Fathers right to bear arms amendment against uprisings was now used to defend the right to bear arms against children. In the years since Sandy Hook, America has proved unable to align the majority consensus of citizens on the need for gun control with legislative action. And so, mass shootings continued in schools, places of worship, nightclubs, government buildings, and concerts. The response to these shootings, we hold vigils, we raise money and we give blood. Gun control advocates revive the discussion in the media and gun control adversaries target their dissent to politicians. After the massacre in Las Vegas, some people started to express compassion fatigue and numbness.
This was before Parkland. I remember the sight that made me think this time things might be different. There is a cell phone video showing SWAT team officers entering a classroom, where students were hiding. Students were crouched in the corner and the SWAT officer, with a pointed rifle, yelled, “Hands, hands in the air.” You can hear someone crying, and see hands rising. The sight of trembling and shaking hands, in a school classroom, was raw and for many, including myself, it was too much. To see it is to witness pure fear and terror. Then the text messages that students, thinking they were going to die, sent to loved ones appeared in the media. Before the week ended, a group of Parkland students would gather and soon claim the world’s attention.
To be a person of color is to know that gun violence extends beyond mass shootings. African Americans are eight times more likely to be killed by firearms than people who are white. How can one even began to process the killing of Stephon Clark? What is more challenging is that research and data about guns is hard to obtain. Bear in mind, in America we keep statistics on car crashes, cigarette smoking, heart attacks, voting, all manner of things. Over the years, funding for research on prevention and statistics on ownership has been gutted. Imagine doing this for cancer research.
When the students from Parkland rose up and said #enoughisenough and #neveragain I was with them. I understood their frustration with tweets saying, “sending thoughts and prayers.” Father AKM Adam said it best when he spoke to the “general resentment of public figures using theological platitudes and not using their political or legislative power to rectify a situation.”
The moment I heard about March for Our Lives, I knew I would attend. My determination only increased after witnessing the attacks from public figures and politicians on the student organizers from Parkland. What kind of adult does this to students not yet adults? #notafairfight And so, on March 24, my son and I took the Metro and in the words of Frederick Douglas and the sentiment of Rabbi Heschel, I prayed with my legs and my march was my worship.