By Stephanie Younger •
I am writing this as a Black student activist who was turned away and excluded from speaking by the white student organizers of the Virginia #NationalSchoolWalkout Protest, that took place on the 19th anniversary of the Columbine school shooting, at Brown’s Island in Richmond, Virginia. I was informed that I was speaking about race and the media’s lack of support for the Black community because gun violence affects Black youth the most. Instead, my voice was devalued by a group of people who intend to uplift the youth voices. In response to this, I walked out on my own in solidarity with the Black women and girls who are disproportionately affected by gun violence. Black women and girls will always matter to me whether they matter to others or not, and whether my voice is valued or not.
As a Black girl, and an activist, I’m more susceptible to racism within spaces intended to create a socially and politically just community. Black women and girls are often viewed as “disrespectful” for defending our communities, even though Malcolm X describes us as “the most disrespected, unprotected and neglected people in America.” It’s so unfortunate that we live in a world where we have to prove to people that we’re not the epitome of these negative labels when we refuse to subdue, sugarcoat and weaken our message.
Uplifting marginalized voices is so important for this movement, because we shed light onto how gun violence disproportionately affects women, the LGBTQ+ community and the Black community. As advocates in Richmond, Virginia, one of the former capitals of the Confederacy, we need to come to terms with our history. This country was built on the genocide and continuous exploitation of Native Americans and the continuous exploitation of Black women and girls whether it’s domestic violence, sexual violence, police brutality and other forms of gun violence, and the thing that is so devastating about it is how it’s something that’s rarely ever discussed.
As an activist with the intersections of the Transatlantic Slave Trade and the colonization of what is now Latin America in my heritage, improving our communities for everyone, including Black women and girls, is something that needs dialogue and action. Without dialogue and action, we will fail to understand that the way the white children in Parkland experience gun violence is not a mere representation of how all walks of life, especially how Black women and girls in America experience gun violence.
According to Everytown for Gun Safety, gun violence is the leading cause of death for Black youth. Everytown also states that Black women are twice as likely to be fatally shot by an intimate partner compared to white women. The Violence Policy Center and the CDC also reported that the highest amount of gun related homicide out of every race of women were Black women. According to a database by mic.com called “Unerased: Counting Transgender Lives,” 72% of transgender murder victims were Black women.
When Black girls speak up for themselves and direct attention to how gun violence affects the Black community, not only are we labeled as “divisive” and “belligerent,” but we are also criminalized by learning environments. According to a study by Georgetown Law Center on Poverty and Inequality, Black girls are three times more likely than white girls to experience the school-to-prison pipeline and 20% more likely to be charged with a crime. Black girls have been “Calling B.S” for quite some time, and have put their lives on the line to combat gun violence in their communities. It is about time that Black girls are prioritized in this dialogue and action surrounding gun violence prevention.
This speech at the Richmond Peace Education Center’s annual Youth Peace Summit was written by Stephanie Younger, a 15-year-old Black student, aspiring computer programmer, poet, writer and a Central Virginia based activist.