by Taliq Tillman
March 21, 2018
I was laying on my couch when I watched the recap of live footage from the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting. I watched helplessly and shed a tear knowing that that community lived through that experience. I took time to pray for them and then felt overwhelmingly helpless. I was a witness to something that had, at this point, become all too familiar, and there I was just sending my thoughts and prayers yet again. Again and again, our schools become crime scenes and hunting grounds. Again and again, students are subjected to terrorism while our nation bears witness and sends thoughts and prayers through glass screens, retreating to the complacent and comfortable silence.
The walkout on March 14th was more than a demonstration. It was a step towards change. My peers and I are letting everyone know that the silence is tiring, draining, and infuriating. We are letting our nation know that ‘silence’ is just another word for ‘acceptance’. We are letting our nation know that we will do everything in our power to prevent our school grounds from becoming crime scenes. This prevention begins with having the courage, tenacity and empathy to unite and use our voices. There is nothing more debilitating than simply being a witness and sitting idly by, while the faults of your nation cause tragedy. I speak for myself and my generation when I say that enough is enough.
We’re taught in school to look for patterns. In my computer science class we’re talking about examining patterns in order to work towards solutions. Gun violence, mass shootings and domestic terrorism in our country have yielded patterns that we are ready to analyze. We must begin to examine existing legislation and circumstances that have the capacity and tendency to curate mass shootings. We’re making a small step by starting with fighting for a ban on assault weapons as a measure of prevention. There should be no debate when it comes to banning these military style assault weapons, as they are designed to kill instantly, in numerous amounts, and have been used again and again in devastating mass school shootings, including the Parkland Massacre. This is a step in a longer journey of reducing gun violence that includes other measures such as banning bump stocks, calling for more comprehensive background checks and raising the age in which people can purchase firearms.
If our nation is so adamant about protecting our second amendment rights, we better be even more set on protecting our children and communities. I speak for my city and youth here when I say we have to be certain to deliver an intersectional message in our efforts to reduce gun violence. A message that includes all perspectives and supports the voices who have been fighting long before today. As we continue our battle we must put forth policy strategies that prevent gun violence, promote reform, safety, and accountability in policing. There are students who are scared to go to school. There are students who walk through their hallways making sure to take every step with caution, as to not fall victim to gun violence. There are too many adults who remain silent. Remain witnesses
The Providence Walkout to End Gun Violence on March 14th was the start of a longer journey towards transformation in moments of tragedy. We are aware that we must interact with our politicians and become civically engaged if we truly want to see sustainable change on a political level. The walkout served as the first time many Providence students actually went into their statehouse, which is a small step in fostering a relationship with our local politicians. The walkout meant more than missing school. It meant standing together, in solidarity, to discourage violence and promote safe schools, communities, and a safer country. Many of my peers echoed words that I will hold in my heart in our efforts. All of them spoke out to break the stagnation and silence that makes up our current government. We are doing everything in our power to shape the policies and world we want to see for ourselves and for our own children.
I am tired of watching. There is no debate or question when lives are taken over and over and over again. I care and know too much to be silent. There will be no more silence. I believe in myself, I believe in my peers and in the youth, to shape national narratives. To mold the future of our schools and our country. We’re doing this for our communities. We’re doing this for one another and We’re doing this because we have to.