I stand here as a Black student activist who was turned away from speaking by the white student organizers of the state-wide #NationalSchoolWalkout that took place on April 20th, 2018 at Brown’s Island in Richmond, Virginia. I was scheduled to speak about race and the media’s lack of support for the Black community when 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, despite the fact that Black youth in Richmond care so much for their communities that they put their education on the line and were threatened with suspension for participating in this act of solidarity. In response to this, I walked out on my own in solidarity with the Black girls and women who are disproportionately affected by gun violence. Black girls and women 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 just community. Black women are often viewed as disrespectful for defending our communities even though we are the most disrespected, unprotected and neglected people in 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 are so important for this movement because we shed light onto how gun violence disproportionately affects women, Queer and Trans people, and the Black community. In 2016, the Violence Policy Center and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention reported that the highest amount of gun related homicides out of every race of women were Black women. According to Mic, 72% of transgender victims of homicide between the years of 2010-2016, were Black women.
As advocates in Richmond, 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 whether it’s domestic violence, police brutality, sexual violence or slavery, and the thing that’s so sad about it is how it’s something that’s rarely ever discussed.
As an Afro-Latinx activist with both slavery and the colonization of Latin America in their heritage, improving our communities for everyone, including Black girls and women, is something that needs dialogue and action. Without intersectionality, and the motivation to come to terms with America’s racist history with gun violence, we will fail to understand that the way the children in Parkland experience gun violence is not a mere representation of how all walks of life, especially how Black 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 our schools. 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 BS” for the longest and have put their lives on the line to end gun violence in their communities. It is past time that Black girls are prioritized in this conversation and action surrounding gun reform.
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