Walking out for Peace: “Instead of focusing on my education I worry about my life”

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TheGrio reached out to African-American teens across the country to share their thoughts on the aftermath of the Parkland massacre, the gun control debate and why they are participating in the national school walkouts. Lila Chiles is a sophomore at Grady High School in Atlanta, GA.

Every time I hear news of another school shooting, I sit still, close my eyes, and try not to cry. I pray that not too many students were hurt, which, most of the time, is not the case. I think to myself, what kind of sick mind would think that taking away innocent lives could possibly make their life or anyone else’s life better? We’re past the time when this should have been stopped; in fact, it should have never started.

But here we are.

Whenever there is a loud noise coming from my school corridor, I get scared and immediately scope out a place where I can hide. I am constantly ranting about how open my school is, and how easy it is for someone to walk on campus, without even being noticed. Instead of taking notes, or focusing on what my teacher is lecturing about, I’m too busy thinking about the possibility of someone walking through the classroom door with a firearm to harm my classmates and me. My school used to be a place where I felt safe at all times, but as the number of school shootings rises, I feel less and less comfortable sitting at my desk everyday. This is a problem. I am 15 years old, a sophomore in high school, and instead of focusing on my education every day, I have to worry about my life every day.

This is what made me want to contribute as much as I could to the national school walkouts on March 14. A group of students and I got together to make posters, ribbons, and t-shirts that we will be handing out during the walkout at our Atlanta public school. The signs contain messages such as, “Never Again” and “#MSDstrong,” a reference to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where 17 people were victims of a mass shooting last month. We also made t-shirts that read, “WE CALL BS.” We feel like that this quote from the speech given by Emma Gonzalez, a survivor of the Parkland shooting, is important because it can be applied to so many foul things about this situation. So, I call BS to all of the inaction on gun laws. I call BS to all of the adults in charge saying that they care about the safety of students, but are not doing anything about it. I call BS to the crazy idea that giving my teacher a gun can somehow put a stop to rampages. I call BS to everyone who has ever doubted the mind of a teenager. We have voices, we know right from wrong, and we are now going to apply those two principles and work ten times harder to get our ideas to the people in charge who, at the moment, are working for themselves, rather than those of us who are affected by gun violence.

The fact that this conversation needs to be had is terrifying, but because stricter gun laws have yet to be put in place, we have a lot more talking to do. Gun violence is real, and everyone should be aware of that.

ENOUGH fear, ENOUGH inaction, ENOUGH lives being lost. It is time that we as teenagers take a stand. That is why today, I will be walking out of my school. This is my generation’s chance to make a difference. Our parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents have failed to make a change, so it’s on us, the ones at risk of, and getting, killed, to do so.


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To continue the conversation on National School Walkout Day, check out TheGrio’s social media platforms on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram using the hashtag #Iwalkbecause.

PHOTO CREDIT: (from left to right) Lila Chiles, Ahmad Abdur-Rahman, Camryn Salter, Frankie W., Esete G., Channing Russell. (all photos courtesy of subjects)