Parkland and Other Outspoken Student Activists Led Protests For Gun Reform – With No Plans Of Slowing Down!

march-for-our-lives-washington-17-gty-er-180324_hpMain_4x3_992In 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-Gonzalez-MarchforOurLives-RTR-imgEmma 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.

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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.

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More Than a March: A Global Call-to-Action Movement

0ba2cdbf-9fa2-45d4-bd12-b7cf26a5cfd8As I made my way to Dag Hammarskjold Plaza on 47th and 2nd – the meeting point for the New York Women’s March, I was filled with anxiety, dread and just plain fear. I had attended a preliminary Women’s March meeting  earlier in the week  held by a group of professional women’s video and documentary filmmakers. “How to properly record immoral acts of violence?” “How not to get arrested.”What happens when you do.” These phrases kept lingering in my head throughout the week. I’m not a person who typically demonstrates. Yeah, I’ve been to a few Revlon Run/Walk 5Ks and previous March of Dimes walks and felt good about myself. Exercise was the motivator, really, and then yes, supporting the cause too – this was an after thought.

Two nights before the march I abruptly texted my friend Sandra. “Do you want to march on Saturday?” I asked. “I would like that. I’m in.” She said. I was taken aback. I was happy that she wasn’t indecisive. I didn’t think any of my immediate friends would want to march. The day of: I was running behind, The gypsy and NJ Transit buses were nowhere in sight to get me to NYC. I saw a young mom carrying a toddler. She must be off to go to the mall or visiting her parents, I thought. NOPE! Was I wrong. And, I loved that I was. “Look! Baby.” She said to her daughter after glancing at the two signs I was holding. “She’s marching too!” This warm feeling swept over me. I couldn’t believe that this mom and I had the same cause in common.

As I fast-walked through from West-to-East on 42nd Street, I halted. There it was. My first glimpse of all these different people coming together as one to protest our causes: Women’s Reproductive Rights, Human Rights, Equality for All, Embracing Diversity, The Future of America.

We are at a standstill on 42nd and 2nd Avenue. So many people had amassed in that central location that no one could really move. Streets were closed off. “This is a conspiracy!” I thought. “Why aren’t I getting any service?” “Trump’s people are behind this.” We stood there for over 3 hours before the march actually started. “What is going on?” “My feet hurt and I haven’t gone anywhere yet, Uggh!” My thoughts were getting to me. “Stop being a wuss!” “You have to find Sandra.” Sandra’s was coming from Queens and there was lots of construction going with the trains. Sandra and I finally met up and we started marching. I couldn’t express at how elated I felt that I was part of something so much bigger than myself, the marchers around me, New York, Hell! the world.

8c1e6b2a-ea7c-4587-88e4-5df0b9d62b88I had been interacting with teens, men, women in their 60s and 70s of various ethnicities being friendly to one another, courteous, singing and chanting alongside one another. We marched all the way up to 55th and 5th Avenue; 2 blocks shy of Trump Towers. I was disappointed at first that the cops had barricaded the streets, but then remembered what the march was about and how many people from different walks of life and age groups came out to protest for what they believe in. What a beautiful day!