'They're Not Going Away.' What Comes Next In The Wave Of Youth-Led Activism

Apr 1, 2018

It started with a handful of students in Parkland that spoke up after a shooter gunned down 17 of their peers and faculty at their school. Then hundreds joined their cause. They wanted gun control. Now.

Less than a month later, the same group of student activists organized a national walk out to protest gun violence and demand gun reform. 

Then, on March 24, students led marches for their lives, in Parkland, in Washington, D.C. and across the world.

What happens next?

For one thing, they aren't slowing down.

Earlier this week, students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School along with other schools, parents and elected officials introduced a new organization called 17 For Change.  The group will advocate for stricter gun laws and track the National Rifle Association’s contribution to Florida elected officials. 

Read More: South Fla. Students, Parents Launch '17 For Change' To Keep Gun Control Momentum

Meanwhile, other student survivors at Stoneman Douglas say their voices have not been heard. A group of black students called a press conference to express their concerns and have their voices heard. 

Tyah-Amoy Roberts said she’s proud of the work she and her peers in the Never Again movement are doing. But, she emphasized, youth-led activism around guns and killings is hardly new. 

“The Black Lives Matter movement has been addressing this topic since the murder of Trayvon Martin in 2012," Roberts said. "Yet we’ve never seen this kind of support for our cause and we surely do not feel that the lives or voices of minorities are as valued as much as those of our white counterparts."

On the Florida Roundup this week, WLRN's Nadege Green spoke about the growing movement with Nancy Ancrum, the Miami Herald's editorial page editor, Rosemary O'Hara, the South Florida Sun Sentinel's editorial page editor, and Carolyn Guniss, editor of the Miami Times. 

GREEN: We're seeing all of these students raising their voices around this issue and they say they're not going away. This is just the beginning. What happens next? 

ANCRUM: They say they're not going away. We will have to see. They need to stay focused. They need to stay committed. Graduation time is coming. Summer is coming. Will the impetus weaken? Will it decrease? I'm hoping that they take some information from the women's marches that we've seen where the question was what's going to happen after that? We all had a great party in D.C. and now what? Well, we've seen a fair amount of women across the country running for office. The movement is going to have to move local where people in their cities, in their neighborhoods [and] in their communities are going to have to keep the momentum going. We may not see it on on TV all the time, but that's where the real progress will be made. 

 I was in Broward speaking to some youth and it sounds they're already heading there. They're talking about addressing the folks who are running for Broward Sheriff, for example, and talking about local elections and bringing their demands to the Broward County School Board even. How do you keep this going on a local level? And should politicians be concerned? Many of the students who are raising their voices right now are going to turn 18 soon.

O'HARA: I don't see any signs of it going away. I see the momentum and the pedal to the metal on this cause. The next step in their journey are these town halls. They have called for every member of Congress to have a town hall, I believe, on April 7. So, now we've got in Broward, Ted Deutch has said he'll have one. Debbie Wasserman Schultz is having one. They've got a website of who has agreed to have the town hall and who hasn't. So they're now pressuring people to have these town halls. And if you remember back in the immigration days about town halls, you know, the kind of people who show up, the power, the energy, it's why a lot of members of Congress stopped having town halls. They didn't like the people showing up. 

 We see kids from all different parts of Florida talking about this. What does this mean — just talking about the issue of gun violence and gun reform — from the different perspectives locally [and how it] impacts young people?

GUNISS: Well, the young people locally are saying that they have been wanting a platform. They've been needing a platform. They live with gun violence daily, hourly. And it seems like they hadn't been able to get any momentum, any traction. So, they said, well let's join the numbers. They said when they got to Washington, they marched, but they didn't feel like they marched. It was sort of like a lip service in that yes, we're saying it's all-inclusive, it is just gun violence, but it still felt like it was about something else.