Students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, are using their platform to also highlight gun violence that young people of color often face.
Stoneman Douglas student activist David Hogg says the biggest mistake in media coverage is not giving black students a voice — not just in his school, but around the country. He calls the coverage "disgusting." At an Axios event he said, "If you look at a place like Chicago or if you look at a place like Liberty City, in a place with lower socioeconomic status or it just has more people of color, the media does not cover it the same."
Stoneman Douglas students also visited the Thurgood Marshall Academy in Washington, D.C., to shed light on a common cause. In a press conference, Hogg said: "The media focus on school shootings and oftentimes be biased towards white, privileged students. Many of these communities are disproportionately affected by gun violence, but they don't get the same share of media attention that we do."
Zion Kelly, a Thurgood Marshall Academy student, told the crowd: "By raise of hands, if you have been affected by gun violence, please raise your hands to honor those we have lost." A little more than half the students raised their hands.
At the March for Our Lives rally Saturday in Washington, organizers ensured all student voices were heard, even if some of their stories didn't make the front page. Naomi Wadler, an 11-year-old Washington, D.C., student, said: "For far too long, these black girls and women have been just numbers. I'm here to say never again for those girls, too. I'm here to say that everyone should value those girls, too."
Edna Chavez, a Los Angeles high school student said, "It is normal to see flowers honoring the lives of black and brown youth that have lost their lives to a bullet."
In Chicago, there were more than 700 killings in 2016 and more than 4,000 shooting victims. That homicide rate dropped in 2017. But some students there say gun violence is the norm. Student Lexis Brown from the South Side of Chicago said: "My first brother, he got shot in his chest. And my other brother, he got shot in his leg, in his thigh and in his head. And he died instantly. And I, too, have been shot at."
For 10 years, the Peace Warriors, a group of mostly black high school students from Chicago, have been fighting gun violence without national media attention. Last month, they met with Stoneman Douglas students to discuss fighting gun violence together. Seventeen-year-old Peace Warrior Arieyanna Williams said: "We found our voice in Parkland. … We felt like we weren't alone in this situation, and we finally can use our voices on a bigger scale." The next steps for the student activists: more marches, a school walkout on April 20 and a push to encourage others to vote. At the rally, Yolanda Renee King, Martin Luther King Jr.'s granddaughter, spoke about her dream. She said, "I had a dream that enough is enough and that this should be a gun-free world, period."