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. Ahmad Abdur-Rahman is a sophomore at the WD Mohammed School in Atlanta, GA.

I was just like any other kid on a Sunday night in August last year, preparing for the first day of school. However, the crisis ruining the lives of many in America struck the hearts of my family that evening: gun violence. My uncle had been shot and killed that night, which shocked everyone that loved him. Once I heard the news, I felt an immediate emptiness inside. Every time I hear or speak his name, it reminds me of the times we had and the gifts he would frequently give me. It’s been rough since his death and not many days go by  when I don’t think about him. Thankfully, the initial sadness has died down, but the pain of the incident will probably never leave.

My family believes in gun control. We feel as if guns only have negative effects in our society, which is something we know of firsthand. After my uncle’s death, we continue to feel the loss of his fun, generous spirit that was taken from us too soon. He should not have had to leave us because of our government’s inability to create better laws on guns. There’s nothing I can do that will ever bring him back, but his passing will hopefully serve as inspiration for change regarding gun violence.

In too many areas of our communities, guns control the streets and ruin families with every trigger pulled. Even if someone is an innocent bystander, their life can change forever by a shooting. It worries me, as a Black, male teenager, that I could be a victim of such unnecessary violence. However, I am choosing to see my status in America as an advantage rather than a limitation. Young people all over the country are protesting for our future. If lawmakers refuse to help us, then we must demand the change. Gun reform must happen in order to keep our schools safe and our families whole.

I am encouraged by the high schoolers in Parkland and other towns who decided to take matters into their own hands with the national school walkouts. I will always be an advocate for gun reform so not another life has be to taken by a gun. My uncle will forever remain in my heart, and I hope that, one day, no one will ever have to feel the pain of losing someone to gun violence ever again.

READ MORE FROM OUR SPECIAL SERIES:

Walking out for Chicago: “I witness the cycle of lives taken by gun violence and I will not back down”

Walking out for Philando Castile: “Even the illusion of holding a firearm as a black person can get you killed”

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

Walking out for Family: “Hopefully my uncle’s passing serves as inspiration for gun reform”

Walking out for Safety: After being shot at for refusing a man’s advances this teen is fighting for change

Walking out for Trans Students: “I’m hyper vigilant because I want to make sure I don’t get shot”

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)