Photo Credit: Youtube, L to R: TOMS Founder, Blake Mycoskie and Jimmy Fallon
As of mid December there have been 338 mass shootings in the United States, not the most in one given year, 2017 saw 346 shootings and this year may surpass that number, according to the Gun Violence Archive, a nonprofit organization that collects data and provides public information on mass shootings – a crisis that has gained significant recognition after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas shooting in Parkland, Florida and the March For Our Lives Movement started by the students-turned-activists affected. Recently, TOMS shoe founder, Blake Mycoskie announced on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon that he would be forming partnerships and financially back organizations committed to changing legislation on gun laws addressing the mass shooting epidemic with 5 million dollars. Mycoskie believes this can be accomplished “through various tactics including programming in communities of color, mental health, research and policy, suicide prevention and more.” Mycoskie felt compelled to act after the November 7th college-bar mass shooting in Thousand Oaks, California, which killed 13 people. The Borderline Bar & Grill is close to Mycoskie’s home and near TOMS’ corporate campus.
Photo Credit: TOMS, L to R: Moderator, Kim Hoyos, Panelists: Sara Mora, Shira Erlichman, Angel Nafis, Glory Edim
TOMS is up for the challenge and recently hosted an event at their Williamsburg store and café with local Brooklyn community activists and tastemakers. The evening was moderated by Kim Hoyos, Digital Strategy Coodinator at MTV Social Impact and founder of Light Leaks – Hoyos founded the Light Leaks website (empowers GNC filmmakers and diverse storytelling) as a college junior from her dorm room in 2017. Accompanying Hoyos in the discussion, were panelists Shira Erlichman, author, visual artist, and musician. Erlichman tours the country promoting her electronic-pop album, Subtle Creatures, and teaches personalized online workshops. Angel Nafis, author and poet of the well-received book, BlackGirl Mansion and Cave Canem Fellow was on hand to discuss the power of self-expression through poetry. Glory Edim, author of the popular book, Well-Read Black Girl and founder of the Well-Read Black Girl festival began her brand with a T-shirt gifted by her boyfriend. Gun reform activist/organizer and DACA recipient, Sara Mora is an advocate and speaker for immigrant rights around the country. Apart from being social influencers, what do all these women have in common? They are using their art, voice, and activism to impact change and shed light on gun reform.
Despite all the hardships TOMS and fellow retailers are currently facing; one thing is certain; TOMS is not backing down from their social responsibility endeavors they were built upon. TOMS is urging other corporations, their customers, and the public to follow suit and make a difference. To learn more about how you can get involved with ending gun violence, click here and get the latest news on TOMS’ programs and product offerings.
In the midst of the highly anticipated and highly rated Stormy Daniels Interview on “60 Minutes” and the “Who Bit Beyoncé?” controversies, there was the student-led ‘March For Our Lives’ protest Saturday in Washington, D.C., with sister marches across cities in America supporting their mission for gun control reform. I was in D.C. for the march and I’ve been to many rallies protesting all the unfathomable and inhumane policies pushed by this new administration in New York City. But, this march was different. The cause felt universal. There was solidarity in the air that permeated and touched every man, woman, and child present. Emma González’s six minutes and twenty-seconds of silence included in her speech – to demonstrate the short amount of time it took the gunman to wipe out the lives of 17 victims – solidified the fact that this tragedy happened, and it could happen to ANY one of us, ANYTIME, ANYWHERE. And, if we don’t fight collectively for effective gun policies from our government, these mass-shooting epidemics will cease to exist. González, one of the student organizers and survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High shooting in Parkland, FL sparked a movement, along with her classmates, in just 5 weeks of the massacre on February 14, 2018. There were donations and support given to the teens by some of Hollywood’s A-listers, Oprah Winfrey and George Amal Clooney to name a few. Kimye (Kanye West and Kim Kardashian) and Steven Spielberg were in attendance. As much as I love these celebrities it was great to see that their association with the protest – or even their presence didn’t overshadow these students’ mission. Although the crowd was wowed by performances from Miley Cyrus, Ariana Grande, and Lin- Manuel Miranda – the true superstars were the inspirational Parkland students and fellow gun violence survivors/activists who took to the podium visiting from Los Angeles and Chicago.
Two little girls (King, (from left-to-right) Adler) that stole the spotlight and gave the most impressive and touching speeches of the day are Yolanda Renee King, Martin Luther King’s granddaughter and Naomi Wadler. King led a chant that had the crowd enthralled and enamored with this spirited 9-year-old, descendant from the iconic civil rights leader. Not to be left behind, 11-year-old Naomi Wadler quickly commanded the crowds’ attention with her choice words: “I am here to acknowledge and represent the African American girls whose stories don’t make the front page of every national newspaper, whose stories don’t lead on the evening news,” Wadler said. “I represent the African American women who are victims of gun violence, who are simply statistics instead of vibrant, beautiful girls full of potential. For far too long, these names, these black girls and women, have just been numbers. I am here to say ‘Never Again’ for those girls, too.”
The national and international ‘March For Our Lives’ protests continues to have momentum and is receiving equal parts media coverage and backlash from the NRA and pro NRA supporters. Close one million people attended the ‘March For Our Lives’ in D.C. alone. Rick Santorum, former Republican senator recently stated students should forego protesting and learn CPR – to which Parkland teens responded: “CPR won’t save gunshot victims’ lives” as drew ridicule from healthcare professionals and other ‘March For Our Lives’ supporters condemning the former politician. One thing is clear: these young leaders have proven they can articulate their message with eloquence and class and will not be silenced or bullied by adults with power. They have tenacity and conviction to AFFECT real change in Washington to prevent further mass shootings.