A group of teenagers who survived last month’s deadly mass shooting at a Florida high school are joining forces with students in Chicago to combat gun violence nationwide.
More than a dozen student activists snacked on pizza Saturday while discussing how gun violence has impacted their communities, according to a tweet Sunday from Emma González, a survivor of the Feb. 14 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
González, who has been an outspoken proponent for stricter gun laws in the wake of last month’s shooting, tweeted that the meeting was meant to include voices often underrepresented in the national conversation on gun violence.
“Those who face gun violence on a level that we have only just glimpsed from our gated communities have never had their voices heard in their entire lives the way that we have in these few weeks alone,” González tweeted.
She continued: “The platform us Parkland Students have established is to be shared with every person, black or white, gay or straight, religious or not, who has experienced gun violence, and hand in hand, side by side, We Will Make This Change Together.”
People of color are disproportionately affected by gun violence in the United States, yet the media and the American public have given comparatively little attention to their stories.
“I’m excited these young people are getting attention, which they deserve, and they’re driving amazing social change,” Dante Barry, co-founder of the anti-racist, anti-violence organization Million Hoodies, told HuffPost last week. “But I’m also disheartened and a little shocked to see folks like Oprah give $500,000 to [March for Our Lives], while she’s seen black folks in the streets for years.”
While mass shootings have been on the rise in recent years, they represent just a small portion of overall gun deaths in the U.S. annually. In total, there were between 12,500 to 15,500 gun deaths per year in the U.S. from 2014 to 2017, not including suicides, according to the Gun Violence Archive.
This surge in gun violence has taken a massive toll on American children, especially black children. From 2012 to 2014, the annual firearm homicide rate for black children was roughly 10 times higher than the rate for white children and Asian-American children, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Overall, firearm-related fatalities are the third leading cause of death overall for U.S. children, according to the CDC.
Students in cities nationwide have taken to the streets since the Parkland shooting, organizing walk-outs and protests to demand that lawmakers take real action to prevent school shootings.
Saturday’s meeting suggests that student-led effort might also succeed in bringing attention to the crippling effects gun violence has on students beyond school walls.