Activists rally to promote gun control

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The “Never Again” movement has gone toe-to-toe with the National Rifle Association and the Florida legislature since the Valentine’s Day shooting at the Majory Stoneman Douglas High School. Through their marches, walkouts and steady media coverage, they have fought to get their voices heard. 

The North Bronx Racial Justice coalition and St. Stephen’s United Methodist Church intend to continue gun control discussion with “Beyond Gun Control: Youth, Race and the New Movement to End Gun Violence.”

The talk focuses on gun control and the difference in support and media coverage the Never Again movement has received in comparison to minority grassroots organizations that advocate for similar gun control policies. 

“It’s time not only to focus on shootings when they affect wealthy and white students, but we have to speak up also when young black and brown lives are on the line,” said Jennifer Scarlott, coordinator of the North Bronx Racial Justice coalition. 

St. Stephen’s West 228th Street location was chosen because of its relationship to the neighborhood surrounding it. 

The event starts at 4 p.m., on June 23, and will feature discussions, dance performances and lectures. Both young and old are encouraged to come out and learn about gun violence, which is hardly limited to just school shooters, Scarlott said.

Drive-bys, police violence, stray bullets and gang activity are some of the many examples of gun violence in urban communities, Scarlott said. 

“There’s been a sudden kind of expansion in the reform movement in gun control,” she said. “Young people of color and white youth have had a much more expansive knowledge of gun violence and gun control.”

Maham Hassan, a graduating senior from IN-Tech Academy, helped organized the March 14 walkout involving some 300 students in solidarity with organized protests from other schools around the country protesting gun violence. She will speak at the event, along with Riverdale-Yonkers Society for Ethical Culture Jone Johnson Lewis, Hostos Community College professor Malika Hodge, and community activist Lawrence Bartley, who will share his own personal experience involving gun violence.

“The idea that gun control is only talked about by white males in suburban areas when there’s gun violence in the Bronx — even though it’s not in the classic way that we see on the news — is a problem.” Hassan said. “Black people have been fighting for ages and even though nothing’s really been happening, I feel like if more kids and people like us stood up in politics we could change a lot.”

Black children face the highest rates of gun-related homicides between 2002 and 2014, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, dying at 10 times the rate of white children.

“We’ve seen again and again the media focus on school shootings, and oftentimes be biased towards white, privileged students,” Parkland survivor and activist David Hogg told The Nation. “Many of these communities are disproportionately affected by gun violence, but they don’t get the same share of media attention that we do.”

Before “Never Again,” there were Dream Defenders and initiatives like “Wear Orange.” Dream Defenders started in 2012 as a group of mostly minority high school and college students who sat in protest outside the office of Florida Gov. Rick Scott three days after George Zimmerman was acquitted in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin.

They demanded gun control change in Florida, specifically as it related to the state’s self-defense laws that practically let people shoot first and ask questions later.

Wear Orange, which happens in June, started in 2013 after Hadiya Pendleton was shot dead in a Chicago park. Her friends wore the color to raise awareness about gun violence.

Scarlott hopes that the event is used to point toward real solutions in regards to gun violence across all demographics.

“We really want to lift up young voices of color in this issue of gun violence,” she said, “and want to see how we can support them and work together moving forward.”