On March 24, 2018 I had the incredible opportunity to witness the March for Our Lives main march in Washington D.C. The march was organized by the March For Our Lives student activists and survivors from Parkland, Florida as a direct response to the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida which killed 17(students and faculty members). The march inspired sister marches across the world to march for gun reform and school/public safety. The movement also inspired school walkouts across the nation that was held on March 14, 2018. What I loved about the D.C. march is that we not only heard from the Parkland students but we also heard from other youth who have been affected by gun violence. The students speeches were amazing.
Three of the youngest speakers at the march were Yolanda King, Naomi Wadler and Christopher Underwood they inspired the world that age is just a number and that YOU can change the world. March For Our Lives also bought a guest speaker Yolanda Renee King, granddaughter of Martin Luther King, Jr. Yolanda King declared that she had a “dream that enough is enough.”
Yolanda King speaking at the March For Our Lives Rally
Christopher Underwood who is only 11 years old and a junior ambassador for Mom’s On Demand, he has been a champion speaking against gun violence after his brother was killed. He spoke about how he turned his pain and anger and turned it into action. He encouraged youth to use their voice despite their age.
Christopher Underwood speaking at the March For Our Lives Rally
Naomi Wadler who led a march at her elementary school with her friend Carter and walked out for 18 minutes to represent Courtlin Arrington, an African-American girl who was the victim of gun violence at her school in Alabama after the Parkland shooting. She mentioned, “ I am here today to acknowledge and represent the African American girls whose stories don’t make the front page of every national newspaper, whose stories don’t lead on the evening news. Walker said, “I represent the African American women who are victims of gun violence, who are simply statistics instead of vibrant, beautiful girls full of potential.”
Naomi Wadler speaking at the March For Our Lives Rally
Edna Chavez a Los Angeles high school student lost her brother from gun violence, she led the crowd as they chanted “Riccardo” . Enda Chavez mentioned “ I learned to duck bullets before I learned to read.” Her speech shed a light that America’s gun problem is not only about mass shootings but it happens everywhere.
Edna Chavez speaking at the March For Our Lives Rally
Mya Midleton a 17 year old from Chicago spoke about how Chicago sees gun violence every day and you “don’t realize how much a toll it’s taking on our cities until you see it in our communities, you see it on kids you know, you see it on someone like me.” She shared her experience about a guy who threaten to shoot her at a corner store. Common and Andra Day used their performance to encourage youth to stand up for something and don’t just talk the talk, but you must walk the walk.
Mya Midleton speaking at the March For Our Lives Rally
Miley Cyrus used her performance to encourage youth to keep climbing. Demi Lovato used her performance to encourage youth to stay strong. Jennifer Hudson whose mom, brother and nephew were killed by gun violence within one day, used her powerful performance to encourage youth to make a difference and use their voices.
Emma Gonzalez speaking at the March For Our Lives Rally
Emma Gonzalez whose quote “WE CALL BS” made national headlines use her speech to remember the 17 (students and faculty) who were killed on February 14, 2018. Emma was silent in part of her 6 minutes and 20 second speech to represent how quick 17 of her friends were killed and 15 others were injured. Emma ended her speech “ The shooter has ceased shooting and will soon abandon his rifle, blend in with the students as they escape, and walk free for an hour before arrest.” FIGHT FOR YOUR LIVES BEFORE IT’S SOME ELSE’S JOB.”
Zaniya Lewis, Founder of Yes She Can Campaign
The March For Our lives march was a wake up call for youth who had been sleeping their whole lives. For students like me and other student activists and community leaders who have been fighting for change their whole lives, the march displayed that our voices do matter and that we need to continue do our work because it is needed in this world. I encourage the youth to use this march as a tool and bring the conversations about gun reform, education, public safety, racism and more back to your communities. Find your passion and use it to make the world a better place and if you are 18 or up VOTE!!!!! IT IS TIME FOR YOU TO STAND UP AND BE THE CHANGE YOU WANT TO SEE IN THE WORLD!
Zaniya is a sophomore at the Catholic University of America. Zaniya has won two national contest within a year. In the summer of 2015, Zaniya was chosen 1 out of 3 student-athletes in the United States to travel with the NBPA and NBA on an amazing community service trip to South Africa. Recently, Zaniya was a co-winner of First Lady Michelle Obama and Seventeen Magazine Better Make Room National Contest. She interviewed First Lady Michelle Obama and appeared on the cover of the May issue of Seventeen Magazine. Zaniya served on the New Jersey National Guard Teen Panel for six years, where she helped to create programs, camps, and trips for military kids. She is also the founder of the Yes She CanCampaign