Walking out for Chicago: “I witness the cycle of lives taken by gun violence and I will not back down”
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. Camryn Salter is a senior at Whitney Young Magnet High School in Chicago, IL.
This Wednesday will mark one month since Nikolas Cruz stepped into Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School with a AR-15 and murdered 17 students and faculty members. Wednesday is also the day thousands of schools across the nation will be participating in the national school walkout in honor of the lives lost in Parkland, Florida. One of the schools joining this movement will be Whitney Young Magnet High School, one of the most prestigious high schools Illinois. I am a proud senior at Whitney Young, and I am grateful for the opportunity to stand in remembrance for my fellow peers in Florida, whose lives and voices were stolen from them in their own school. A space that that should be for learning, growing and self-exploration—and not for assault rifles.
Growing up on the south side of Chicago, I witness the incessant cycle of lives taken by gun violence. It is so deeply embedded into our streets and homes that it is almost expected for many of my peers not to make it past the age of 18. The amount of brothers, sisters, fathers, mothers, friends, and cousins lost to gun violence is so overwhelming that people become desensitized to the psychological burden that people not only in Chicago, but all over the nation are experiencing due to gun violence. The impact of gun homicide is bigger than a love one lost. There is an emotional, social, and financial toll, as the mere exposure to countless stories of lives taken can affect someone just as much as being a direct victim.
Shortly after the mass shooting in Las Vegas last year where 58 were gunned down, there was a surge in conversation around the country moving towards stricter gun legislation. Naturally, many republicans turned their backs on this idea, bringing up Chicago as an example to why not. Their point was that Chicago has “the toughest gun laws in America” but still had one the highest numbers of victims of gun-related crime in the country. So obviously the laws don’t work…right?
This point only exposes the true reason why stricter gun laws are even more necessary, and should be more widespread. In fact, people from Chicago could easily step outside of the city buy a gun and then step right back into the city. The truth is, Chicago does not have the toughest gun laws in America, and while the number of gun-related crime is high, there are so many other factors that feed my city’s epidemic.
So on Wednesday morning, I will proudly walk out of my school doors at 10am, and stand side by side with my peers and teachers for 17 minutes. I am walking out to remember the 17 victims of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. I am walking out to let the legislators know that my generation is not letting up. I am walking out to fight for what I believe in. I am walking out to fight for those innocent people of Parkland, Florida who were murdered and their families. I am walking out for the survivors of the Parkland shooting. I am walking out for stricter gun laws. I am walking out for the banning of assault weapons. I am using my voice. I am protesting the neglect of detrimental gaps in our government that continues to lead to lives lost.
And I will not back down.
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PHOTO CREDIT: (from left to right) Lila Chiles, Ahmad Abdur-Rahman, Camryn Salter, Frankie W., Esete G., Channing Russell. (all photos courtesy of subjects)