5 Student Activists on How It Feels to March for Their Lives
03.23.18

While hundreds of thousands march through Washington, D.C., to protest gun violence on March 24, 2018, young people across the country will be making an impact in their own hometowns. Over 800 registered sibling marches are planned, many organized entirely by students. I spoke with five teens who have worked tirelessly since the Stoneman Douglas tragedy to lead Marches for Our Lives nationwide. Read their stories below, and find details about your local march here.


Ellie Salsman, 15
March for Our Lives The Woodlands, Texas

I grew up in Canada, where there are stricter gun control laws. I want to help show that gun violence isn’t at all normal around the rest of the world. Now I live in Texas, which is much more conservative. What’s interesting is that most people I know who are conservative still agree with common-sense gun control. While we do have some bipartisan support, we know that there might be counter-protests.

I’m very proud to be a part of this movement and on the right side of history. I hope that the march will educate and inform people about gun violence and the loopholes allowing it to continue. I hope that politicians who don’t currently support common-sense gun control realize that we aren’t going to go away anytime soon. They need to pass laws that allow children to go to school safely, and we will remember their compliance in gun violence come voting day.

Mirashaye Basa, 18
March for Our Lives Southern Indiana

I started becoming more politically aware after the 2016 presidential election. So many of the tragedies that we see in the news and on social media are becoming normalized, and that is not acceptable. There needs to be action. My good friend Eli and I are very passionate about music and theatre, so we decided to contribute to the March for Our Lives movement by using our talents to make a video that calls attention to those who have been affected by gun violence. We proposed the idea at a March for Our Lives meeting and posted it on social media to help raise awareness.

Indiana is rather conservative. Some people here don’t understand what we’re truly fighting for, which is why people may refuse to discuss the issue and support the movement. There is a misconception that by fighting for tighter gun control, we want all guns taken away and don’t want to honor the Second Amendment.

As a high school student, sometimes it’s hard to find ways to make an impact on a large scale, but this movement has made me feel like anything is possible. The students in Parkland are so inspiring; they’ve used and continue to use their voices effectively. I hope the leaders of the country are influenced by the masses of people who demand action instead of the money they receive from interest groups. In the future, I hope we have gun control so effective that we never have a mass shooting ever again.

Jibril Howard, 17
March for Our Lives Atlanta, Georgia

I’ve grown up hearing about various mass shootings throughout the United States in the news. In the wake of the Stoneman Douglas tragedy, I was extremely angry and hopeless about the absence of a climate in which political action can take place. The other organizers and I are desperate to make a change to gun laws in our state and national government. We feel that this is a moment that must be seized.

I live in Decatur, which is a liberal neighborhood close to downtown Atlanta. I’ve had a lot of support from my fellow schoolmates, friends and family. Atlanta is incredibly diverse and welcoming, and the response to the march has been extremely positive. With Atlanta’s history as a center for human and civil rights, I hope that this march can also take its place in history.

Overall, I hope for change. March for Our Lives is calling for increased background checks and raising the minimum age for gun purchases, as well as bans on assault weapons, bump stocks and high-capacity magazines. We recognize these demands are ambitious, but they are certainly attainable, and I believe that the march presents an opportunity like no other to get common-sense gun legislation passed.

Kennedy Dixon, 18
March for Our Lives Ann Arbor, Michigan

After I heard about the march in D.C., I started a Facebook event to host one in Ann Arbor. With some help from my aunt, who is a long-time activist, I came up with a rough outline of everything I thought necessary to have a successful march. Then I contacted organizations and put together my team. It skyrocketed from there — now on the event page there are over 10,000 people interested in attending. I’m pretty sure we’ll be one of the largest marches in Michigan.

Right now, I live in Brighton, which is a mostly conservative area. Sometimes I feel outnumbered, which in turn makes my stubborn self want to be even more outspoken. I think the political climate of the country is worth talking about. The country is very divided now. A lot of people are angry and have been since 2016. In my opinion, that all helps the momentum of the March for Our Lives movement — people are motivated to fight for this.

I really hope the march motivates young people to be politically active, especially because voter turnout for the 2016 election of people ages 18-29 was atrocious. I also hope to remind people that it cannot end here — after all these events are over and the topic dies down, we can’t stop fighting until we see the change we want to see. There’s still so much to be done.

Torie Walenz, 18
March for Our Lives Omaha, Nebraska

In February, I partnered with Indivisible Omaha to spearhead the march in our area. March for Our Lives Omaha is unique in that we are connecting two states, Nebraska and Iowa. In addition to marching in the streets, we are going to have folks from Nebraska and folks from Iowa march across the Bob Kerrey Pedestrian Bridge to meet in the middle at the state line, reinforcing our theme of unity.

Even though Nebraska is a Republican stronghold, Omaha is pretty diverse and progressive in nature. The First National Bank of Omaha withdrew its support for the NRA after the Parkland shooting. But our governor, Pete Ricketts, invited the NRA to hold their national conference here in Nebraska. This difference of opinion is what keeps the topic of gun control a hot-button issue in our state. Whatever differences there are, March for Our Lives Omaha believes that we are united under one topic, which is the safety of children.

I hope the march is a clear display to older people that our generation is not to be messed with. Student voices are in the spotlight, and we are saying no more. Even in red Nebraska, our voices matter, and the adults are watching.


Resources

Sign up for a sibling march and find out how to prepare.
Learn more about gun violence here and here, and view the gun laws in your area.
Find resources for coping with gun-related trauma.
Sign a petition on Change.org or through the March for Our Lives.
Donate to gun safety organizations like the Brady Campaign and Everytown for Gun Safety.

Feature image by Matt McClain-The Washington Post via Getty Images.

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