March for Our Lives: Centering Youth of Color

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March for Our Lives: Centering Youth of Color

YWCA USA is proud to support the incredible student movement against gun violence that is taking our nation by storm, and will mark the landmark March for Our Lives this Saturday, March 24 (the same day as our foremother, YWCA champion and civil right leader Dr. Dorothy I. Height’s birthday!) We encourage you to join us and hundreds of thousands of others here in Washington, D.C. and at local events around the country!

As an organization committed to racial justice, we are cognizant of the outpouring of support the majority white students of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas movement have received, in contrast to the challenges Black and Brown young people continue to face when they march, organize, and rally for their lives. We support all youth movements for justice, including Black Lives Matter, Dreamers, and the young activists at Standing Rock, and we have long been committed to amplifying the concerns and supporting the work of women, girls, and youth of color. It is painfully evident to us how largely positive the public response and media coverage of the student activists at Parkland have been – compared to the reception and narratives that frequently, consistently surround activists of color who are protesting anything from police brutality to land and water pollution.

This, of course, raises critical questions about victimhood in our country, and who gets to be seen as innocent and deemed worthy of our sympathy and support. Who do we center in these conversations? As this op-ed astutely points out, many are able to “empathize with the rage of the students in Parkland, Fla., but can’t embrace the pain of youths of color whose communities are gripped by gun violence.”

We applaud the Parkman students for trying to be thoughtful and inclusive in this important dialogue around gun violence. It is so important that we have an intersectional framework when tackling such issues, and it is absolutely vital that, in the discussion and fight against gun violence, we center the voices of those communities most impacted. While the impetus of the march was the mass shooting in Parkland:

  • We know that we can’t address gun violence if we don’t address the connection between gun violence, violence against women, and racism.
  • We know that far too often the ways in which Black and Brown youth experience gun violence, including intracommunity violence and police violence, are either normalized or criminalized.
  • We know that in America, women are 16 times more likely to be shot and killed than our counterparts around the world, and that the mere presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation increases the risk of fatality for women by 500 percent.
  • We know that gun violence disproportionately affects communities of color in this country, and that activists of color have long been mobilizing, organizing, and pushing for change around gun violence, including police shootings.

We must work to amplify Black- and Brown-led organizations and youths of color who are, and have been, doing the daily, difficult work of anti-violence, peacemaking, and justice. With this in mind, we encourage you to engage with and support the work of organizations like CJRC, BYP100, Million Hoodies, and more.

If you are attending the march in Washington, DC, or anywhere else around the country, please feel free to download, print, and carry these rally signs:

For those who are not able to participate in person, there are still ways you can support this important work:

  1. Lift up the march and the issue of gun violence via social media using the hashtag #MarchForOurLives. Engage with the march on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
  2. Read YWCA’s new policy guidance on gun violence and this op-ed by our CEO. Share your thoughts and reactions with us on social media using #MarchForOurLives and tagging @YWCAUSA.
  3. It’s never too early to get folks registered to vote! Conduct a voter registration drive to get young people registered, and encourage them to turnout for the 2018 elections.
  4. Make sure YOU are registered to vote to continue to have your voice heard!
  5. Sign the March for Our Lives petition to protect and save children from gun violence.
  6. Call on Congress to create policies to create policy solutions and pass laws that address gun violence in all its forms. This means better gun regulations, and it also means demilitarizing law enforcement and holding police accountable, investing in low-income communities and communities of color, and providing survivors of trauma with the necessary support systems they need to heal and thrive.
  7. After Saturday’s march, share your experience with photos, blogs and social media posts. Connect this historic event to your broader civic engagement work, and remember that civic engagement is a powerful tool for eliminating racism. This march is just one way we at YWCA are working to protect our communities. Want to help? Join us in taking a Stand Against Racism.