Last week on Valentines Day, the United States experienced its 18th school shooting since January 1st 2018. It was devastating. Seventeen people –students and teachers– were shot dead and fifteen more were injured when former student, Nikolas Cruz opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
Footage of grieving students, parents and teachers bled onto our screens as we watched in horror, wondering how much longer America could stomach such atrocities.
That’s the answer to the question, and a vow that has been pledged by thousands of American students in the last week as they come to terms with their grave reality. “Thoughts and prayers” are not saving them and this chapter in their country’s history–the one that willingly allows them to die at the hands of their peers– needs to end.
Three days after the shooting, the school’s students held a loud, furious protest for gun control at the Federal Courthouse in Fort Lauderdale. Standing before a sea of young, heartbroken faces, Emma Gonzalez, a 19-year old former student, gave an impassioned speech which quickly cemented her as the movement’s leader.
Her opening words planted a stake in the ground: “All these people should be home grieving. But instead we are up here standing together because if all our government and President can do is send thoughts and prayers, then it’s time for victims to be the change that we need to see.”
“We are going to be the kids you read about in textbooks,” she declared. “Not because we’re going to be another statistic about mass shooting in America, but because … we are going to be the last mass shooting.”
For ten minutes, Gonzalez laid out a passionate and concise rationale for greater gun control. A young woman– shaved head, powerful voice, brave heart– becoming the country’s symbol for hope.
In her final paragraphs, Gonzalez shamed those who opposed gun control and punctuated each indictment and excuse with the phrase, “We call that BS!”. The crowd chanted in unison and just like that, the springboard had been set. America’s youth would revolt.
Just one week on, and the survivors of the shooting have taken matters into their own hands . From their parents’ living rooms, Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students are planning to March for Our Lives.
The central March will take place in Washington DC on March 24, 2018. But, much like recent women’s marches globally, a number of sister events will occur across America and beyond on the same day and in coming weeks.
Celebrities like George and Amal Clooney, JayZ and Steven Spielberg have already weighed in, donating more than $2 million to the cause. “These inspiring young people remind me of the Freedom Riders of the 60s” said Oprah, who pledged a further $500,000.
George and Amal, I couldn’t agree with you more. I am joining forces with you and will match your $500,000 donation to ‘March For Our Lives.’ These inspiring young people remind me of the Freedom Riders of the 60s who also said we’ve had ENOUGH and our voices will be heard.
— Oprah Winfrey (@Oprah) February 20, 2018
Oprah’s words ring true. #MarchForOurLives will become a defining moment in US history, an example of true leadership born from sheer desperation.
“The people in the government who were voted into power are lying to us, and us kids seem to be the only ones who notice” Gonzalez said. But one thing’s for certain, America’s youth aren’t willing to sit back and watch from the sidelines any longer.