BY STEPHANIE YOUNGER •
Today, I had the opportunity to speak 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 gun violence; 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. 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 girl advocates like 11-year-old Alexandria native Naomi Wadler who should be placed at the forefront of this movement for gun reform, deserve more visibility and support in the media.
As an advocate for Black feminism, 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 Black people in the LGBTQ+ community.
Being a young Black girl participating in this, 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.
Stephanie Younger is a 15-year-old Black student, aspiring computer programmer, poet, writer and a Central Virginia based activist. This article was later republished on the ACLU of Virginia’s website.