I am writing this as a Black student activist who was excluded from speaking and turned away by the white student organizers of the Virginia #NationalSchoolWalkout Protest that took place on the 19th anniversary of the Columbine massacre, at Brown’s Island in Richmond. I was scheduled to speak 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 diminished by a chapter of a movement meant to uplift the voices of young people. 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 female youth 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 we are 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, the former capital of the Confederacy, we need to come to terms with our history. This country was built on the genocide 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.
When Black girls exercise their first amendment right and direct attention to how gun violence affects the Black female 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.
Written by Stephanie Younger, a 15-year-old Black student, aspiring computer programmer, poet, writer and a Central Virginia based activist.