On March 24, people participated in the March 4 Our Lives throughout the country and around the globe. During an epidemic of mass shootings and the refusal of NRA-backed politicians to pass common-sense gun-control, the Parkland shooting redirected national attention on the subject of gun violence. I attended the Los Angeles march and was amazed at the representation.
Some of the Parkland survivors acknowledged that the reason their movement amassed so much media attention is the majority white status of their community. A few of the survivors are using their platforms and privilege to draw attention to the people and communities of color that endure regular gun violence. The Los Angeles march gave a much-needed platform to the voices of young people of color.
On the main stage, many of the speakers featured were African American or Latinx children and teens from inner-city communities. They spoke about the everyday fears of walking through their neighborhoods and their experiences with witnessing the effects of gun violence firsthand. Their unwavering voices exuded passion and their desire to make their communities safe. The crowd loudly applauded and cheered as the young people gave speeches, sang, and danced.
The march seemed to me like a flashback to the 60s. There were people sporting peace armbands like those worn to protest the Vietnam War. Also, there were strong allusions to the Civil Rights Movement, including a speech by Martin Luther King Jr.’s granddaughter in Washington D.C. The power of young people is center stage as we are once again the leaders of a cultural revolution. In a tumultuous time of political chaos, we are calling for peace and compassion.
As the event came to a close, some of the speakers brought up the issue of police brutality and Stephon Clark. Clark was an unarmed black man shot and killed by police on March 18th. The police were responding to a 911 call about someone breaking the windows of a truck. Clark was in his own backyard and police opened fire when they believed they saw a gun. It was a cell phone. Many protests broke out as people were justifiably angry at the situation, which is all too familiar. The unfair treatment by police was blatant considering that the white Parkland shooter who intentionally killed 17 people was merely tackled while an unarmed black man was shot 20 times. The #NeverAgain movement centers on mass shootings, but is beginning to evolve into one focused on all victims of gun violence.
These emotional conversations are difficult, but incredibly important. The Los Angeles march worked to be inclusive and supportive of people of color. Too often their voices are ignored in this conversation, but the #NeverAgain movement, while not perfect, is making some effort to draw attention to people of color and their communities’ experience with gun violence. This movement invites us to ask ourselves: what are we doing to support the communities that endure regular gun violence?
The location of the stage was Grant Park, chosen for its proximity to City Hall. While standing there, I noticed something I had not seen during the Women’s March: a sign that said in several languages “The park for all.” And at the LA march, that couldn’t have been more true.