When Baltimore students who attended the March for Our Lives in Washington, D.C., on March 24 filed off a bus outside City Hall, the difference between how their counterparts from White suburban communities were treated was evident.
As a journalist approached the bus to ask if the attendees wanted to discuss their experience, an adult supervisor, who did not identify himself, ordered the students into a waiting van, brusquely telling reporters the students were not authorized to speak.
Protesters hold signs during the “March for Our Lives” rally in support of gun control in Washington, Saturday, March 24, 2018, on Pennsylvania Avenue near the U.S. Capitol. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
“They are all teens and do not have their parents’ consent to talk,” the man said, who did not identify himself.
The agency of these students, who have likely experienced more violence than many school-age children in America, sits in the stark contrast to the teens from Parkland, Fla., where 17 students were killed by a gunman last month.
It’s a difference that was apparent during the March for Our Lives in the nation’s capital, where over 500,000 people gathered as teens from Parkland talked frankly about their encounter with horrific violence delivered by the barrel of an AR15 automatic rifle. There, the students spoke forcefully about the need for stricter gun laws, advocating for political action.
“For the first time the corrupt aren’t controlling our story—we are,” said Parkland student Cameron Kasky. “The American people now see they all have one thing in common: weapons. Politicians, either represent the people or get out.”
Protesters stand Pennsylvania Avenue looking east toward the stage located near the Capitol during the “March for Our Lives” rally in support of gun control in Washington, Saturday, March 24, 2018. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
But in Baltimore, the students who were allowed to speak noted that the violence which afflicts their lives are not isolated events but an ongoing threat that consumes them both inside and outside the classroom.
“We shouldn’t have to go to school every day feeling like we’re unsafe,” Brianna Wilson told the AFRO. “We shouldn’t have to arm our teachers with guns.”
Her concerns were echoed by others who felt the narrative emerging from the march and subsequent student movements needed to expand beyond the classroom.
“Our young people are getting lost in the streets due to guns,” said Darrius Savoy.
Savoy was one of roughly a dozen attendees from Excel Academy, a school that has been hit particularly hard by guns. In roughly two years, eight students who attended the school have been murdered—an epidemic of violence that has taken a toll on students.
“We have to deal with a lot of trauma in the classrooms,” said Shelley Higgins, a teacher at Excel. “Feelings of hopelessness and despair… I see how it affects them all the time.”