By Stephanie Younger •
This article was edited and re-published on the ACLU of Virginia on April 5, 2018 •
Today, I spoke at a March For Our Lives demonstration in Richmond addressing the fatal school shooting at Majory Stoneman Douglas High school in Parkland, Florida. My speech shed some light onto how gun violence disproportionately affects women, queer and trans people, and Black communities.
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?”
Many were shocked by this tragedy, despite the fact that we live in a society that was built on a foundation of violence; the genocide of Indigenous people, 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. The mainstream media’s abundant support for the white students 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
The voices of Black girls, like 11-year-old Alexandria student Naomi Wadler should be centered in this movement, and deserve much more visibility and support in the media. As a Black feminist, it is key to center the voices of Black women and girls, and as someone who is light-skinned and doesn’t identify with the LGBTQ+ community, it is key to center the voices dark-skinned Black women, and Black queer and trans people.
As a young Black girl participating in this, I am recognizing the Black youth before me who have put their lives on the line to fight violence against their communities.
Stephanie Younger is a 15-year-old writer and aspiring computer programmer based in Central Virginia.