Today, I had the opportunity to speak at a March For Our Lives demonstration in Richmond, Virginia addressing the fatal school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High school in Parkland, FL and shedding light onto how gun violence disproportionately affects women, queer and trans people, and black communities. 17 people were ripped from their families, stripped of their futures, their opportunity to graduate from high school, go to college, have a career, and make more families.
Many were shocked by this tragedy, despite the fact that we live in a society that was built on a foundation of gun violence and refuses to come to terms with its own history; the genocide of Native Americans, built on the backs of kidnapped, enslaved and abused black people, and where the “right to bear arms” really applies to those who aren’t black and brown. This happened because we live in America, a country where young people have to decide between their safety or their education and where people value the second amendment over our humanity.
I have a few questions for our current president and our policy-makers. How many more hate crimes will happen to the LGBTQ+ community? How many more women will be shot for rejecting unwanted advances? How many more times do my parents have to give me “the talk” how I’m 10 times more likely to become a victim of gun violence because being Black and female puts my life at risk with those whose job it is to serve and protect? For America to to stop devaluing the voices of Black girls who experience this reality everyday, who have been calling for gun reform for 400 years, and to start valuing tomorrow’s leaders.
From NBC12’s coverage of the event: “Speakers also emphasized the greater impact gun violence has on the African-American community, tying it to historical acts of violence against minorities. “How many more black families will be devastated by gun violence – threatened or killed by the people whose job it is to serve and protect?” Stephanie Younger, an activist with the Richmond Youth Peace Project, asked the crowd. “How many more times do my parents have to give me that talk explaining to me that I’m 10 times more likely to become a victim of gun violence because I am black?”
The mainstream media’s abundant support for the students in Parkland and the minimal support for Black youth, who are affected by it the most is evident. This movement against gun violence has been deemed a “new wave of student activism” when Black students have been rallying against gun violence for generations yet continue to be seen as “divisive” and “violent” for directing attention to how gun violence affects Black communities.
“I represent the African-American women who are victims of gun violence, who are simply statistics instead of vibrant, beautiful girls full of potential. For far too long, these black girls and women have been just numbers. I am here to say never again for those girls too.” -Naomi Wadler
Black female advocates like 11-year-old Alexandria native Naomi Wadler should be placed at the forefront of this movement for gun reform and deserve more visibility and support in the media. As an advocate for intersectionality and womanism, it is key to uplift young Black female voices as well as use my privilege as someone who is light-skinned and doesn’t identify with the LGBTQ+ community to uplift dark-skinned Black women, and queer and trans POC.
Being a young Black girl participating in this movement for gun violence prevention, I am recognizing the Black American children before me who have put their lives on the line to end gun related violence in their communities. It is past time for our voices to be heard and acted upon.
Written by Stephanie Younger, a 15-year-old student activist, organizer and writer who advocates for Womanism, diversity in S.T.E.A.M, the abolition of youth prisons and gun violence prevention