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. Here, Lila Chiles, a sophomore at Grady High School in Atlanta, GA, interviews her classmate Esete G. who experienced gun violence firsthand at just 14 years of age.
Though the mass shooting in a high school in Parkland, Fla., is shining a light on America’s refusal to deal with the devastating effects of firearms on school children, gun violence has affected the lives of Black kids everyday. In fact, a 2017 Centers for Disease Control study of gun-related homicides, suicides and unintentional deaths and injuries among American children between 2002 and 2014 found that guns kill about ten times more Black children than white children. Esete G., a student who attends a public high school in Atlanta, knows the impact of gun violence personally; when she was just 14 years old, she and her sister were shot at on the street by a man who became angry when her sister refused his advances. To this day she is shaken. This is her story.
Lila Chiles: What led up someone shooting at you?
Esete: My sister and I were on our way to get food one night when a man standing in the corner tried to talk to my sister. When she ignored him, he got mad and fired his gun close to where we were standing. Out of fear for our lives we didn’t look around to see what would happen. However, soon after he shot his gun, we saw the man cross the street and start walking normally, like nothing happened.
LC: How did you feel during and after the incident occurred?
Esete: When something like that happens, your body is in shock, so your response won’t make sense, which explains why we proceeded to get food. Looking back on it now, the logical thing to do was to go back home. But after I had the chance to really think about it, I was really scared. I didn’t go outside late at night or once it was already dark out.
LC: How have your thoughts on guns changed since the incident?
Esete: I agree that owning a gun should be a right, but I also believe that it should be a right that comes with strict rules. After what happened in Parkland, it is clear that getting your hands on a gun is too easy.
LC: Why are you participating in the walkout?
Esete: Because I want my voice, as well as my classmates and teachers’ voices, to be heard. I don’t want to look back on my high school career later on in life and remember a school shooting. I want to remember that, because of this unfortunate situation, our government passed laws to protect us in a place of learning.
LC: What do you want to see change?
Esete: I hope government officials can work together to make better laws that won’t only keep us safe in school but everywhere else we go. I don’t believe that arming our teachers will solve the issue; it will only escalate them. Not everyone is to be trusted with a gun. If all it took for that guy to fire his gun [at my sister and me] was a rejection, how long do you think it will take a teacher to get mad enough to fire their gun? Teenagers can get under your skin; it only takes one bad day to turn a testy situation into terrible one. Not even two weeks after the Parkland shooting, a teacher in Dalton, Georgia, fired his gun in a classroom full of students. Thankfully no one was hurt. God forbid there’s another school shooting and the teachers are armed; what happens if a police officer shoots a black teacher and justifies it with, “he was armed”? The solution to gun violence is not more guns.
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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)