Photos by Lily Mather and John Turner Lane
When you think of pivotal moments in history, moments that changed everything, what comes to mind? The March on Washington and Dr. King? The first stone thrown at Stonewall?
On March 24th, 2018, thousands of people all around the world marched for a simple thing: the end to gun violence. In Chicago, we all united in Union Park in the West Loop. March for Our Lives. A pivotal moment.
March for Our Lives was a series of demonstrations across parts of the world jumpstarted by students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, the biggest of which planned for Washington D.C. The devastating impact of the February 14, 2018 school shooting at the Florida school was indescribable. Unfortunately, gun violence is nothing new in the U.S. In 1999, we had the Columbine Massacre in my hometown of Littleton, CO. It was followed by Red Lake, Fort Hood, San Bernardino, Sutherland, Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech, Orlando, Las Vegas; and that’s just to name a few. So many mass shootings and this does not include the singular deaths caused by gun violence that happen on an everyday basis.
Parkland is not going to be one of these. It is not going to be yet another statistic.
A massive stage was built at the front of the rally. A row of American flags was mounted in the back and a podium stood in front of them. One by one, people from all over the Greater Chicago Area came and performed. Some spoke, some sang, some danced. Each performance brought something different to the same conversation. One spoke of the gun violence in schools and how students are conditioned to act in a drill in cases of an active shooter situation. One spoke of the violence in the black community. Another spoke of violence against women. Some performed their original poems. They spoke to voters, to the NRA, to Congress, to everyone.
And they were kids.
Ranging from 7th graders to high schoolers, these were the kids leading the march in Chicago. These are my peers. They are not much different than me.
Standing in the crowd, and listening to these young speakers, there would be certain moments of silence. They weren’t planned. They weren’t awkward. It was comfortable and somewhat inspiring. A 12-year-old would be standing on stage, speaking, and thousands of people would just stand and listen. It was sad yet invigorating. And somehow, through all of it, we all knew that we would no longer be silenced. For far too long, young people are constantly being silenced and being pushed aside because we never seem to “understand” anything. This rally is putting the kids into the narrative. Some of them can’t vote but they are still able to voice their opinions. There was a crowd that ranged from actual babies to the elderly, every single one stood in silence listening to that kid on stage. Nobody dismissed them. The silence was not because what was being said was too much or wrong or incoherent. The silence was for listening. Listening to the youth of the community.
The March for Our Lives demonstration took over the world on March 24th, 2018. It was only for a few hours, but this conversation will continue on. It won’t be forgotten and then brought up again when another mass shooting happens.
The debate on the regulation of guns feels like it has been going on for years and to be honest, I don’t know what changes will be made; everything is constantly up in the air. But I do know that we’ve experienced a pivotal moment in history. Like the March on Washington or the Salt March in India, this is a moment that students in their classroom would learn about in the future. And they are going to learn that students, who were then their age, ignited a movement and refused to be silenced. Everyone says it: “Children are our future,” and they’re starting earlier than ever.