LOS ANGELES, CA-Byron Jackson was only a junior high school student when he lost his life to gun violence. Charles Freeman was a 39-old pastor of a community church in Long Beach, California, when he was felled by a hail of bullets at his job as a longshoreman payroll clerk.
Mira Carmichael had her whole in front of her when her boyfriend decided to take her life in a murder-suicide atrocity on the high school student’s front porch. These are not names I read about in a newspaper or online on the Internet. These are individuals I knew in some form or another.
Jackson was my best friend before his life was taken away over a street dispute. Freeman was one of the dearest people to influence my life before a deranged killer emptied his gun on my uncle as he handed out payroll checks one morning. Carmichael was a popular student who attended Long Beach Poly High School.
She wasn’t allowed to fulfill the potential of a promising future because of an act of domestic violence. Unfortunately, there are too many of these tragedies floating around this nation. I lost a co-worker and another friend to this unwelcome growing societal problem when she wanted to permanently end the relationship she was in.
She didn’t get that chance. In my last conversation with my friend she told me how jealous her former boyfriend was. Somehow, some way, this cat persuaded her to meet up with him one last time in person. He wanted to work things out. She was done with the relationship. I tried to dissuade her from going to this meeting. That would be the last time I would see my friend alive.
That’s because this coward pumped a bullet into her temple, ending her beautiful life. She left behind a young daughter. So, when we consider gun violence, it doesn’t discriminate. Age, gender, ethnicity, religious background…it doesn’t matter. It comes in the form of domestic violence. It can happen in the workplace.
You can become a victim of this disease just walking down the street to head home as Trayvon Martin was doing before he encountered George Zimmerman. Sitting in a movie theater is not a safe zone as it once was. You can’t even attend a concert without it raining down bullets.
Whether you wine and dine in an affluent neighborhood or live in the inner city, gun violence is always trying to rear its ugly head. Churches are not immune. Now being in school no longer carries the exempt privilege it used to have as gun violence have infiltrated a once American haven for children with the force of a runaway train.
It started with Columbine. The ripple effects of gun violence have torn at the fabric of our society with the mass shootings at Sandy Hook and Virginia Tech. For some people living under a rock somewhere, this has become a new reality. Gun violence, however, isn’t new at all. It has always been lurking in our backyards for some time.
Now it’s on our porches, trying to knock down our front doors as we constantly seek to be in pursuit of our rights as human beings to life, love and happiness. This is what makes what the surviving students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School doing so awesome.
In just over a month’s time after the Valentine’s Day Massacre in which 17 young people and staff members from the Parkland, Florida, school lost their lives to a former student’s killing spree, survivors of that mass shooting have woken up this nation. And it’s a beautiful thing.
The Parkland students have been bold enough to call out and confront elected officials for their ineptitude on gun violence. They’ve already forced legislation change in their state as it relates to what kind of weapons can be used.
They’ve reached out across the aisle to work with youths in urban areas like South Los Angeles, Washington, D.C. and Chicago to encourage other students to speak out about their own horror stories on gun violence.
The “March for Our Lives” demonstrations were reflective of that well-coordinated outreach as young people from across the globe flexed their international muscles to let lawmakers-here and abroad-know they will not continue to stand idly by and allow their generation to continue to be identified as the “Mass Shooting Generation.”
Hundreds of thousands of participants showed up at rally in Washington, D.C. Thousands more took to the streets in Los Angeles and other cities around the nation to put pressure on lawmakers to enact more rationalized gun control legislation. Some people, including the National Rifle Association (NRA), have already dismissed these young people and the marches as nothing more than a bunch of noisemakers filled with empty rhetoric.
That would be a grave mistake for these individuals to be so dismissive of the social climate we’re in today. People are fed up with the political circus that is now governing our country. The topic of gun violence is just another tipping point on the change barometer. And any movement that has forced changed in this country has been done by young people.
There is a galvanizing wind at the backs of the Parkland students to help them ride this wave, whether the so-called adults in the room like it or not. This is their future. They do not want gun violence to define their generation. Whether that happens or not remains to be seen. The Parkland students are not letting up on this issue, rallying and organizing youths to do more than walk the streets and vent their frustration.
Beneath all the hyperbole and the grand visualization of the worldwide marches, this was a call to arms by young people. Youths were called up on to sign up and register to vote. Believe it or not, these young folks are making a lot more sense on this issue than the people we’ve entrusted to govern this nation.