March for Our Lives: A Call to Action From Our Kids & An Important Message About Them, Too by Ann Marie Gardinier Halstead
On March 24, 2018, I was honored to march alongside my 11-year-old son, my college students and local high school students in Richmond, Va., as they added their voices to the student-led #NeverAgain movement. The teen survivors of the massacre at MSD High School in Parkland, Fla., organized the D.C. March For Our Lives, and our local kids initiated the Richmond march. With the exception of a few adult speakers (including Senator Tim Kaine and Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney), the rally mainly consisted of diverse student speakers, poets and singers, exactly as it should be.
Our local students urged us to join them in their efforts to effect change to protect kids not only at school but also in neighborhoods in Richmond and across the country where they are also affected by gun violence. They shared their fears and personal stories of loss due to gun violence, and they shared their wishes for the future. They were passionate, articulate, inclusive, on message and inspiring. This may have surprised some people, but I wasn’t at all surprised.
I’ve been working with teens and young adults for 20 years. I have learned to never underestimate our young people. I know some see our kids as apathetic and narcissistic, spending their time obsessing over Snapchat filters and eating Tide Pods. But that’s not what I see. I see young people who ask insightful questions, who challenge the status quo, who care about social justice, who want to make a difference in the world. It doesn’t surprise me that when we adults fail them, they step up and say #Enough.
I’m glad my son was there to witness their activism, democracy in action and living proof that age does not limit one from making a difference. I’m glad I was there to witness this significant moment in history. These kids made me feel more hopeful than I’ve felt in a long time. Don’t underestimate them; they’re not going anywhere. They’re our future voters, teachers, politicians, leaders. #ImWithTheKids. Won’t you join me in supporting them?