An open letter to Women’s March leadership: please support Parkland students on March 24
The Women’s March should collaborate with and support student-led efforts not pre-empt them.
… maybe the adults have gotten used to saying ‘it is what it is,’ but if [we] students have learned anything, it’s that if you don’t study, you will fail. And in this case if you actively do nothing, people continually end up dead, so it’s time to start doing something. ~ Emma Gonzales, 17 February 2018
Emma Gonzales was eloquent while expressing frustration with elected leaders whose response to mass shootings has been “only thoughts and prayers.” Given the stalemate since Sandy Hook, I agree with her: “it’s time for victims to be the change that we need to see.”
To that end, on Friday a Connecticut student proposed (via Change.org) a student-organized walkout for April 20, the 19th anniversary of the Columbine shooting. Support for the petition spread like wildfire.
On Saturday (per the timestamp on their Facebook event) the Women’s March posted an organizationl call for a walkout on March 14.
On Sunday, Parkland students announced a national event on March 24, MarchForOurLives, which provides a framework for all of us, students and concerned adults, to make our voices heard.
That makes at least three competing events centered around gun violence: two are student initiated and the third is initiated by a women’s advocacy group.
Only one of these three events is both student-led and truly inclusive on a national level: the Saturday, March 24th MarchForOurLives.
Encouraging civic involvement before being old enough to vote. Rallying while in the midst of grief. Using digital communication tools as effortlessly as my generation used a landline telephone. Taking on the powerful in a way that youth have not since the Vietnam war.
These students make my heart sing ❤️.
The other two events (one student-led, the other from Women’s March) focus on campus-specific action: “walk out.” To do this, you have to be in a classroom. This excludes parents of kids in school, parents of kids out of school, folks who are childless. Although potentially symbolic, neither provides opportunity for widespread grassroots action.
UPDATE: According to NationalSchoolWalkout, the Women’s March has agreed to collaborate. There is merit in two walkouts, given varying spring break schedules around the country. Here’s hoping that the Women’s March board will collaborate with the March 24th event as well.
Women’s March mission
The Women’s March focus for 2018 is the November elections. The Twitter account for Women’s March links not to the organization website but to PowerToThePolls, a voter registration project.
The organization mission says this about violence (emphasis added):
“Women deserve to live full and healthy lives, free of all forms of violence against our bodies. We believe in accountability and justice in cases of police brutality and ending racial profiling and targeting of communities of color. It is our moral imperative to dismantle the gender and racial inequities within the criminal justice system.”
Domestic violence and sexual assault are alluded to in that opening sentence. Yet the mission statement does not mention gun violence, in general, or mass shootings, in particular.
In an email exchange, WM board chair Tamika Mallory told me that the organization was collaborating with “all marches being planned around the gun violence crisis.” Last summer, WM led a rally from NRA headquarters in Virginia “to decry what demonstrators called the gun lobby’s disregard for the lives of people of color.”
Collaboration should be the focus
As a member, I hope that Women’s March leadership will coordinate with organizations whose primary purpose is to end gun violence, given that gun violence is not its primary mission. Examples of such organizations include:
- Brady Campaign (National Council to Control Handguns, 1974)
- Coalition to Stop Gun Violence (1974)
- EveryTown for Gun Safety (2014)
- Giffords (2016)
- Moms Demand Action (2012)
- New Yorkers Against Gun Violence (1993)
- Women Against Gun Violence (1993)
Rather than create a call for action that mirrors that of students — truly the group with the right to call for a national walkout given the absymal record we adults have — please support student mobilization on March 24.
Like EveryTown is doing:
The March 24 event provides an opportunity for the Women’s March to do what it does best: help organize local action. The Women’s March has well-honed logistical tools that could help teens coordinate a series of national events.
By supporting Parkland student efforts and encouraging support from traditional gun violence organizations, the Women’s March could help the March 24th event become a turning point in our national conversation about gun violence.
We can’t let innocent people’s deaths be in vain. We need to work together beyond political parties to make sure this never happens again. ~ Christine Yared, 18 February 2018
These students, who have rallied to vociferously oppose the NRA, are amazing. Let’s help them be the change they want to see in this world.
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- Ben Dickman, 40, Florida conservative, on “enough”
- Don’t let my classmates’ deaths be in vain
- Emma Gonzalez, full transcript
- Gun Reform: Speaking Truth to Bullshit, Practicing Civility, and Effecting Change
- Gun Violence Archive
- Jon Pincus provides details about all events under discussion (there are more than these three)
- Republican donor issues ultimatum to GOP: “I will not write another check unless they all support a ban on assault weapons.”
- Seven facts about gun violence in America
- Tanai Bernard on her 10-yo son’s school safety drills (10 hanky warning)
- Teens for Gun Reform (organized President’s Day White House lie-in)
- Twitter: AMarch4OurLives
- Twitter: List of Parkland Advocates
- Why Kids Should Sue The Government For Failing On Gun Control
Contact the Women’s March Board by email
Here is my letter to the Board:
Thank you for agreeing to collaborate with the student-led walkout on April 20th.
I’m writing to urge you to do the same for the March 24th event organized by Parkland students.
As my friend Jon Pincus wrote so succinctly on Medium on Sunday, “Let’s hope the adults don’t screw it up” (with “it” being student-driven conversation about gun violence).
Given that gun violence is not alluded to in the Women’s March mission, I believe the organization should proactively collaborate with organizations for which gun violence is their primary mission (Everytown, et al).
Moreover, to participate in a “walk out” by definition one has to be inside a classroom. That means students and teachers. Walkouts do not provide an opportunity for parents or those of us who are childless to participate.
The March 24th event, on the other hand, has the potential to be a massive grassroots effort in the model of our inaugural march in 2017. The Womens March has sophisticated logistical tools; let’s offer them to the students.
We should do all we can to help students to succeed and for their message to reverberate across the nation. I believe wholeheartedly that they have the power to shift the conversation about gun control in a way that student protests helped change our trajectory during the Vietnam War.
Kathy E. Gill
Seattle (and a proud Marcher)
PS — both Jon and I wrote essays on Medium on Sunday
Posted at 7:03 pm Pacific, 18 February 2018
Edited to add links, Women’s March Board, 19 February 2018
Edited to add NationalSchoolWalkout update, 12:12 pm Pacific, 19 February
Edited to add letter to Women’s March Board, 1:17 pm Pacific, 19 February
Edited to add correspondence with WMB, 4:11 pm Pacific, 19 February
Thank you to Jon Pincus, Shasta Willson, and Susan Bernick for feedback on previous drafts.