Over 200,000 students gathered in Washington, D.C. on Saturday, March 24 to protest the lack of gun control in the U.S. More than a march, the event was a movement that was driven, organized, and orchestrated by a group of fearless leaders who just happen to be in their teens. As the Bible says, “a child shall lead them…”
The March for Our Lives event was prompted by the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida that left 17 people dead earlier this year.
The rally featured speeches from students who were at school at the time of the shooting. Organizers say the mobilization of the students since the shooting should serve as a wake-up call for elected officials to create stricter gun laws.
A group of Minneapolis youth from North High, Patrick Henry and Park Center High Schools joined fellow students in our nation’s capital for the historic event.
Azhae’la Hanson, a 17-year-old senior at North High, and budding photojournalist joined the march. Hanson, along with about a dozen other students who’ve dubbed themselves Northside Students United, marched, held signs, and chanted in an effort to shine a spotlight on the importance of school safety.
Not only did Hanson attend the march, she used her camera to help tell the story of her experience. Below is an excerpt from my (SB) conversation with Hanson (AH) about the journey.
SB: Why did you decide to go to the march?
AH: Gun violence isn’t something new. It is and has always been a part of urban communities in this country, including the Twin Cities. Thousands of lives have been ripped from America, unnoticed, and forgotten.
I am living in a place where our community is deemed unworthy of justice and redemption in the eyes of outsiders. The NRA and the government’s negligence is genocide on the American people. It is the nation’s duty to protect its children. But they have failed, and now we will protect ourselves.
SB: Was it a financial sacrifice to get there?
AH: Fortunately for myself and the group that I traveled with, the funds were raised by people in the community, so this experience was covered, and I traveled with no cost. Natalie Johnson Lee and Deb Loon Stumbras created a GoFundMe account to raise money to pay for the trip. Two mentors, Arnise Roberson and Quinton Bonds helped organize the trip.
SB: What was the atmosphere like with all those other students there?
AH: If I could use one word, it would be “healing.” Our group marched with Protect Minnesota; we came from different areas of Minnesota, and we [met] each other for the very first time. However, it was impossible to tell! We marched, screaming our hearts out: “Who are we? Minnesota!” Our demands echoed as we entered the overall sea of protesters and we were loud. As the speakers went through their speeches, the crowd felt as one. The pain washed over us and turned into unbreakable unity. We cried, we laughed, we chanted, and we loved with complete strangers.
SB: You were inspired weren’t you?
AH: I physically felt the change. My spirit was lifted in a way that it couldn’t possibly have been without this march. Before this trip, I felt like I was missing something, but I couldn’t figure out what it was. And then I marched, and I knew exactly what I was missing: hope. You cannot begin to grasp the power and the strength that America shouted with that day! We made history by saying “enough is enough,” a phrase that is so simple, and yet it shook the country.
SB: How did being there change you?
AH: I know now that I can make a difference, and I don’t need an adult to do it. I don’t need permission to do the things that are morally right. I plan to be more involved in my community.
SB: What was the one thing that stuck with you?
AH: The power of voting. I am 18 now, so I will be participating in the next election and will be following politics from now on. Politicians shouldn’t take school safety and gun control lightly or the youth will vote them out.
Hanson is a member of Girls in Action mentorship program at her school. When she graduates, she plans to major in mass communication at Howard University. See more from her first set of published photos of the March for Our Lives event in Washington, D.C. below.
Sheletta Brundidge welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.